19 days after setting off from Perth, our road-trip up the West Coast of Australia finally came to an end in the town of Derby.
Recently I have been looking back at what we called “The Book” whilst we were on the road, reminding myself of the hilarity, awesome people we met and some not so fun times. Everyday we were travelling we took the time to write up memorable events that had happened. After reading through “The Book” a few weeks ago I became inspired to write an article on the dirty truths of taking a roadtrip in Australia, that the rose tinted spectacles brigade won’t necessarily let you know.
We had an amazing time and I would do it again in a heartbeat- but the truth is, it ain’t all sunshine, rainbows and pixie dust kids:
This obviously depends on exactly where you are in the country and the time of year but being sat behind glass for many hours at a time, with that burning sun beating down upon the metal box on wheels, in which you are travelling- makes for an extremely sweaty time. Even with the windows down, or the aircon on, prepare to sweat from places that you didn’t even know was possible.
By dirty I mean filthy. FILTHY. Sure, you can stay in campsites with shower facilities (or find the odd free ones scattered here and there) but for most backpackers on a budget, a shower when roadtrippin’ is a luxury. That red dirt sticks like nothing else I have ever encountered. Add in the sweat, sand and suncream to the mix and I guarantee that you will become disgusting very quickly.
We purchased a solar shower from Kmart before setting off. You fill up the bag, lay it in the sun for a few hours and hang it up so that you can enjoy a warm shower. In truth, despite how gross we became, we never used it. Why? I hear you cry! Well because it used 20L of water (half our supply) and as we didn’t know where the next available place to get drinking water would be, or if we would need it in an emergency it seemed a little ridiculous to waste our precious H2O.
Oh, and good luck on washing your clothes!
And sometimes they may succeed.
Sure we all know that there is a lot of wildlife in Oz that wants to kill you; Spiders, Snakes, Crocs, Sharks and Scorpions to name but a few.
For the 19 days we were on the road we only encountered 1 spider, which I managed to deal with swiftly, much to the amusement of the Aussie couple camping next to us. The wildlife that actually had us held hostage in our tents one night (yes, truly), was the insects! Mosquitos, hornets, grasshoppers, flies and these weird little bugs that looked like popcorn kernels (before they had popped) were the ultimate bane of our existence.
During the day it was the ants and flies that were an issue. Oh my, those sodding flies. I never thought that flies would make me so angry. They will follow you, land on your eyelashes, try to get in your ears, nose, mouth and eyes. I actually developed what I like to affectionately refer to as “insect tourettes”. The name came from the fact that all the people around me would see was arm flapping, twitching, me hitting myself, violent head shaking and swearing like a trooper when the flies began their attack.
After dark you are safe from the flies and ants but that’s when the others come out to play!
I’m embarrassed to say that some nights we were in bed by 8pm. 10pm became a “late night” for us, despite the fact that before we left Perth both of us were rarely in bed before midnight. You will wake up when the sun rises and the birds start squawking and once it is dark- the truth is, that there isn’t a huge amount to do. We had a few evenings spent with other campers (and of course our lovely French friends) but most of the time it was just the two of us. With only a few two-player card games known to us, and a limited supply of goon, the evenings could at times begin to drag. Luckily for us, we usually got chased into our tent by the insect kingdom fairly early on (there really is only so much you can take) and thus slept like babies!
As human beings in this modern world, we really do take a lot for granted. We feel entitled on a daily basis to many things that to a vast number of people, truly are a luxury.
On the road I soon came to appreciate the little things….you know, like fresh, clean, drinking water. A hot shower goes from being a part of your everyday mindless routine, to being the most luxurious experience you have had all week. How many times do you stand in the shower thinking about your journey to work, what is on TV that night, or what you will have for dinner? Whilst roadtrippin’ all I could focus on when showering was the amazing sensation of hot water on my skin, the aroma of my shower gel and the genuine feeling of just how grateful I was to finally feel clean in that moment. A hot meal became a treat. The day that we stayed at the campsite in Monkey Mia was incredible to me in many ways, but particularly in noticing how both of our moods changed. We treated ourselves to a hot shower and hair wash, a hot meal cooked by someone else and got to wash our clothes. All of these little things to most people (including myself some of the time) but we were so happy, laughing and joking, because we truly felt extremely lucky and grateful in that moment.
We all have to go. Every single one of us, and unfortunately ladies, it’s not as easy for us when out in the bush.
You will encounter many different types of toilet facilities whilst driving the West Coast of Oz. From flushing toilets (complete with water AND soap to wash your hands with) in roadhouses, to Aussie long drop loos with additional swarm of flies in campsites, to “bush toilets”. Some times you will be amazed that some other camper was decent enough to leave a toilet roll in the free campsite loo. Other times you will literally hold on as long as possible, just so you don’t have to go in that stinking cesspit that the Camps 8 book has wrongly informed you is a toilet. Whilst silently praying you never find out exactly what is in that bucket of brown liquid that has partially spilt all over the ground, and currently houses a toilet brush from circa 1973. You will become an expert my friend- I hope you have already perfected the art of the hover and run, not to mention assessing the wind direction to minimize splashback. If not, don’t worry, you will learn quickly!
We’ve all seen them. Those beautiful travel photos on Instagram or Pintrest. Maybe it’s a stunning landscape pic that leaves you wondering how on earth it was taken, or a happy couple smiling as the sun sets in front of their uber cool camper van in some national park, or those beautiful girls dressed in trendy dresses, Raybans and felt hats staring out at the sunset, on top of the mountain, absolutely flawless.
Dream on my lovelies.
I hate to tell you just how staged these shots are. Possibly for work purposes, perhaps for pure artistry and creativity, or maybe simply for vanity and one-upmanship. I am not judging these pictures, they are beautiful and amazing and fill me with wanderlust every time I look at them, but I need to break it to you. They are not real.
It will have taken multiple shots, different camera angles due to light, or different lenses. Tripods, timers and certainly a lot of editing will have been at play. Unless you (or your travel buddy) have studied photography or have the right equipment with you, your photos (or certainly the vast majority) will not live up to your society induced perfect picture ideals.
Don’t forget you will be sleeping pretty rough, your clothes will have been bundled up and creased in your backpack, your new stylish felt hat misshapen from being accidentally stuffed down the back seat of the car, if you’re lucky it might even be stained from the dinner plates you haven’t yet been able to wash up. Maybe you have loads of spots thanks to the sun cream and limited washing facilities, and you have the elements such as the wind, that will be battling against you. We took so many selfies where the wind had literally blown our hair right across our faces mid shot, that I have made a private “horrific selfies” folder to entertain us at some point further down the line.
You will not be looking your best in those photos- sorry to be the one to break it to you, but to be honest, does it really matter?
Life is much simpler when out and connected to nature. Yes there are stresses in terms of travelling and basic needs eg. food, water, shelter and safety, but on the whole, life is simpler and also happier.
Karijini National Park was the highlight of the roadtrip for me. In particular I was blown away with the Fern Pool in the Dale’s Gorge area of the park (more to come on karijini in another post soon- read it here). There were signs asking people to be quiet and respect the area, as it is considered a sacred and special site by the Aboriginal/Indigenous people, and I can understand why. It had this magical calming quality that you don’t find in the parks in the inner city, or by a lake in a small town. It was very special and I felt extremely connected to nature and the earth whilst taking my morning swim there. That feeling was almost addictive and if someone had said to me that I could build a tree-house and stay there indefinitely, I would have seriously thought about it.
Maybe once you try living on the road and becoming more attuned to nature’s rhythms you won’t want to go back to your modern life. Even in just 19 short days, I learnt more about myself, my thought patterns and what I take for granted on a daily basis, than I have in the last 2 years.
Roadtrippin’ was breathtaking, awe-inspiring, soul searching, hot, cramped, filthy, (mainly) fun, that made me realise just how lucky I am and just how beautiful the nature on this planet really is.
If you get the opportunity, there is no better way to explore Australia than with a good ole fashioned backpacker roadtrip! At least now you will know what to expect.
Creative unicorn ninja; Travel vlogger/blogger. Green tea enthusiast and lover of dance and art. Currently be found back in England planning the next adventure! Southeast Asia Odyssey coming very soon!
Where I can be found: UK