The first thing that comes to mind is the "outback wave" :-)
As soon as you leave the civilisation behind - it's funny how people become friendlier towards
strangers as soon as there are less
I love driving in the outback even outside Cape York, and am known to take off on
crazy trips to places like Broome or Queensland outback on my own.
On these trips I have amused
myself by trying a lot of different waves - whole hand, lift the fingers, lift one, two, three fingers on one or both
hands, and so on - and found out a lot of the
time you get the same wave back :-)
And that's not the only fun thing about outback driving!
The outback is the most exciting part of Australia - the unknown
country to a lot of people.
But there are also a few things that are good to be aware of and bear
are long in Cape York and
elsewhere in Australia, and there
are signs encouraging tired drivers to have a break.
Another outback driving thing is
They are up to 50m long trucks, which stir up a huge cloud of bulldust
on unsealed roads, and can be dangerous to overtake because of
There can be
bushfires, but these are worse
in the southern parts of Australia, where the heat is drier. Our
climate up here is too moist for really big bushfires. You do get fires here and
there, but they are not as big and
Also on the outback roads, of course there is always the
wildlife. The most common are
kangaroos and wallabies that hop across the roads, but you do also see other
animals like dingoes, wild pigs and others.
And up here,
to the surprise of many from
southern Australia - cattle
can roam freely on the road. They are not there by
accident, they are on some roadsides
all the time, simply because they are not
Another thing we have a lot of in Queensland, are metre marks on the roadsides in
the areas that get flooded.During the Dry season it looks
like they don't make sense, but during the Wet they do.
another thing we have a
lot of in Cape York are corrugations.They can be
everywhere on unsealed roads, but in Cape York, they could be worse
than you are used to in other places.
common thing that you will see is DIP signs.
The dips vary from almost unnoticeable to the ones that damage your
driven through too quickly.
Dry season, Cape
York roads are dusty,and there are some quite bad dust holes to watch
On these roads, passing vehicles stir up bulldust - impossible to see through.
thing you can get from other vehicles is a rock into your windscreen!
A big one is not so common but does happen - I had one making a whole of
have some roads with
very soft sand
- easy to get bogged.
And what we do have more of than
southern Australia is the drives with creek
There are even some river
crossings such as Daintree, Bloomfield (UPDATE Bloomfield
now getting a bridge - May 2014), Wenlock, Pascoe and others. Jardine
Old Ford is
doable, but I would definitely not
recommend it unless you really know what you are doing.
In the early and late Dry
season you have more chances for rains, which can make the roads
soggy (even boggy) and slippery.
happen to creek
crossings - if it rains
a lot in a short time they can quickly become impassable.
The photo above left me stranded
for nine hours until we finally got
is one thing you see often in Cape York, it's the dip sign.
There are dips everywhere,
while driving, I sometimes start giving them silly names,
like French Onion Dip, Hot Salsa Dip, Guacamole Dip...
And I am not
alone - some other people have thought of
bacon, chilli, even skinny dip and written them on the signs.
They are silly jokes
but on the right moods in Cape York, you be surprised how easy it is to
laugh at anything!
surely as many
different dips as the ideas for the silly signs.
Some are hardly
noticeable, others are major dips, which can cause an
if you speed through them, or at least seriously damage
The thing is you don't know before you drive through it so before you
start laughing, slow down at each dip sign and take it easy while
driving through it.
Despite all the fun around them, these signs do actually
There are so many of them
that you find sayings like "Six
Thousand Corrugations to Go..." on Cape York
Corrugated roads are not
but also damaging to your
Makes you want to do the Old Telegraph Track twice instead
of putting up with them on the Bypass
It's a lot more fun anyway :-)
But the thing is - that
you avoid them on your Cape York trip.
Apart from the Bypass
the Telegraph Road,
the roads through Lakefield
national park, and so on - any unsealed
road gets corrugated after a certain amount of traffic has passed,
particularly the big heavy trucks. Until it's graded!
And folks have thought of that too :-)
I've been asked by
there is any sceduled dates for grading, obviously trying
plan their trip so
they can avoid corrugations.
Not a bad thought!
But the answer is NO.
The council guys simply drive the roads to see how bad they are, and if
they get bad enough, they are graded.
Impossible for us to predict anything here.
You simply have to count on slim
chances you can avoid it, so.. How To
Do It Best?
drive on corrugations you soon notice that they are worse
when you go slower.
So one trick is to go
quicker and "fly on the top of them".
This can be dangerous
though, as it makes it harder to keep traction, and you
may lose control of your vehicle.
You have to find the right speed, which can be a fine line between
feeling less of the bumps and losing control.
Another trick that helps you to feel the bumps less is to let your tyre pressures down.
It makes the drive far more comfortable.
The downside of letting the tyres down is that you get a puncture
easier should you run over something sharp, so watch out for any of
that including rocks.
Something that helps you to keep traction is engaging your four wheel drive.
It is generally not
needed on those roads, but if you want to go
quicker on corrugations and be as safe as possible it does help - four
wheels are working instead of two.
The downside is that four wheel driving uses a bit more fuel.
What Good Are Corrugations......
... you may ask after you found your beer
cans broken in
the fridge, any screw-top
jars and bottles opened, in fact anything
that was hold together by screws being gradually detached...
I don't remember where I read it but someone said you can put your
washing into a well sealed bucket with washing powder and water, and it
works as a perfect
Makes perfect sense I say :-)
a fair bit of bulldust on the Cape York roads.
don't notice it
on your trip, you
sure know about it once you are back home and have to clean your vehicle!
Both inside and outside have become red and covered in fine dust that
has gone into every single crack.
Well mine is covered inside anyway, because my air conditioner is
broken so I have to drive with windows open to get a bit of breeze in -
that, of course, also brings in a lot of dust.
It's one of those things on your Cape York trip.. and it most likely
won't go unnoticed!
It may a passing or overtaking vehicle that stears it up, or it may be
yourself while driving through some real dustholes.
Whatever the case, it is really fine,
it does not only go into your
eyes and nose but also your camera (it broke my SLR camera on one of my
trips), your laptop, everything.
You Can Do
than me at keeping your air conditioner working so that you
are comfortable to drive
It is obvious that most dust comes in that way :-)
Even when I drive with the windows open, I do close them when I pass
another vehicle - this is when most dust is steared up.
It doesn't help fully, but it stops a big junk of bulldust from coming
If you have anything in
the car that
you don't want to lose, cover it.
It will go into your computer and your expensive camera, as well as
torch, iPod, iPad, backup devices - anything electronical is really
to the dust and they are usually the things that are expensive.
you have an SLR camera, don't change lenses while the dust is coming in
through your window - this is written from first hand experience and
this was how I got my own camera broken.
It is also a good
idea to have a sheet or something just to throw over everything in the
back of the vehicle. Nothing stops it fully but every little bit helps.
If you have shoes or
clothes that you
absolutely love, DON'T bring them to Cape York.
I learned this, I lost a lot of them to bulldust - it makes them red
and you never get it out by washing.
So nowadays if you see a person in ragged clothes in Cape York it may
be me :-)
Wear clothes and shoes
that you are
looking forward to get rid of
- at least if you travel like me, rough it, and don't generally make an
effort to keep out of dust (and it is not really possible anyway).
And finally - if you have long hair like me, be prepared for a new look - very
to dreadlocks :-)
You Should Not Do
... is to
drive through bulldust.
If you cannot see through
drive through it. Stop your vehicle and wait until it goes
Also, try not to speed. Watch
dust holes and take it easy when driving through them.
They can be hard to see but they can damage
your vehicle quite a bit if you drive through them too
And last but not least - during your trip, don't think about getting
back home and having
to clean every single item from bulldust - it is bad enough once you have to
how easy you get a broken windscreen...... and not only that - with
some bad luck even risk your life!
I have been driving on those roads for years and years, in different
vehicles, different conditions, different seasons, without ever putting
a lot of thought into getting
fly through your windscreen.
Well it's quite an
With a bit of bad luck,
it can be very
real! In 2012,
while driving through
National Park, it was the reality for me, and my 'bad luck' turned out to be a
GOOD luck to be alive!
Sitting in the passenger seat, with nothing much to do I clicked away
snapping photos on this and that, including passing cars coming from
the opposite direction.
I still had the camera in front of my face so I didn't see the rock
coming but I sure heard
The windscreen JUST held it.
Just think of the size of
that makes a hole of this size:
And think if the
This rock was coming right at me, and when we later told and showed
other people what happened, we heard true
stories about people being killed by rocks coming through windscreens.
So how does this happen?
Why Do You Get a Broken
rocks this big fly
that high? It happens when people
care to slow down when they are passing other vehicles on unsealed roads.
down when passing other vehicles on dirt roads!!!
You may not only
cause people costs of hundereds of dollars to replace
their broken windscreen.. you may
actually kill someone with a bit of bad luck!
road trains didn't get their name for nothing.
trucks that can
be up to 55 metres long.
That's a very long vehicle
- more than double in length compared to the longest ones in Europe!
You don't see them in cities and the more populated south eastern areas
You see them in less
populated areas, where distances between places become
longer. They are very common in Western
I remember taking photos of my first Australian road trains in Western
having been living in northern Queensland outback for many years, I am
so used to them it's hard to picture a road without road trains.
But being so long and so
heavy, they can be dangerous.
are a lot of different
kinds of Australian road trains.
Some are mining trucks,
cattle trucks, yet others may carry fuel or machinery... and depending
on what they carry, they are all different in shapes and sizes, number
of trailers and of course, length.
on all that, they also have different names like triples and
quadruples but I won't get into such detail here. You'd be more
interested in reading about how
they can be dangerous to you.
Australian Road Trains
There are a few narrow
roads in the outback that are used by Australian road
mines can be reached by small roads only, but mining trucks need to get
in there. Same with cattle stations and cattle trucks, and all others.
There are normally road signs, but you can also get an odd road train
where there are no signs.
Why narrow roads are dangerous is that
sometimes there is not enough room for two vehicles to pass each other,
not at least if one of them is the size of a road train.
Because they are so large they are also very heavy and they drive in
the middle of narrow roads, and if only the middle part is sealed
(which is the case with many narrow outback roads in Queensland), this
is where they will drive.
When you are meeting them you will have to pull in. They will not get off the road
for you - not out of ignorance but because they cannot
make movements quick enough - they are too heavy.
So keep your eyes open, be prepeared to pull in quickly, if you have an
UHF radio, have it on channel 40 and listen.
Australian Road Trains
The biggest danger is overtaking Australian road trains. They are going
they are only allowed to drive in 90km/h max.
So they can be
very annoying on a road where you are allowed to go in 110km/h and
particularly if you are in a hurry... which I always seem to be.
But being in a hurry most often only happens to locals.. If you are a traveller, and not
used to overtaking them, simply pull in, have a rest and let it go.
You got the time so it's not worth the risk.
They are as long as about 10 cars, so it takes you a while to overtake
one. Unless you have a looooong strait non-hilly road and can see well
ahead, this is a very dangerous overtaking.
You also want a broad road so that you can have a good distance from it
side-ways - because they often sway from side to side (last trailers
And remember one thing - because they are so heavy, they go slowly uphill and fast downhill. It is
quite easy to overtake them when they slowly climb uphill.. but never do it when they go downhill!
I have seen photos of small cars crushed just after overtaking them and
then turning back to the lane in front of them.
They are that heavy
they cannot stop themselves when going downhill, and it takes them a
long time to slow down.
I avoid overtaking
as much as I can. I have to be in a great hurry to do it -
if only I can, I pull in and let it go instead.
On some roads you also
have overtaking lanes, which makes it heaps safer.
But these tend to be
on the coastal Bruce Highway and not so much in every outback road.
I have once,
Territory where we are allowed to drive in 130km/h, been almost killed by a small truck
driver overtaking a road train and not seeing me coming
from the opposite direction because the road was hilly.
If I didn't make the
millisecond move to pull in before I even had the time to
check what the road-side was like, we would have had a head on
collision and I wouldn't be here writing this today.
When they passed
me where I stopped he was in my lane, still overtaking the road
train... and waved a 'sorry' -- for almost killing me!
That also shows you that you have to be alert driving and try to see
things in time.
I had no time to waste - it
was a very near miss
that left me shaking where I stopped for a long time.
The reason why it didn't take me any time to pull in was that I had
previously thought about the situation.
And thought that no
matter what's along the roadside, even if I rolled over, is better than
So when the situation was there I didn't have to make a decision - I
had already done it before.
It was a horrible experience that I wish to no-one so take care.
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contains information that helps you getting started with planning of your trip.
You get to make early-stages desicions such as when to go, how long time you
should take, how to get
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to stay (general info), what
will it cost..
and a short insight to what is there to see and do in Cape York.
This complete 300 pages
travel guide is all you need before and during your trip. Besides the
background chapters on the peninsula's history and wildlife; and the comprehensive detail about all the places (down to prices, opening hours and full contact detail), it has invaluable information on at least 10 four wheel drive tracks, at least 30 guaranteed FREE camping spots on the Cape (and at least 150 on your way to the Cape), at least 40 best swimming holes, all mapped; as well as practical things - from fuel, roads, wireless internet and mobile phone reception, how to deal with the national parks booking rules; and Aboriginal land entrance and camping permits and alcohol restrictions - to vehicle preparation and accessories and necessary recovery gear by my partner Mark who is the recovery guy on northern Cape York and the Old Telegraph Track). Not to mention locals' tips on how to spot that croc and palm cockatoo ;-)
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