A couple of weeks ago I took a spontaneous trip up to Darwin and drove back. I flew there, stayed three days and it took me five days to wind my way through the back country, Daly Waters, Mt Isa, Longreach, Roma. I was inspired by the value of relocation campervans (which you can browse and book here). Basically, campervan companies that need vehicles transported between major centres offer them for free (or next to), if you agree to book them within a specific time frame and ofcourse, drive from one location to the other. In my case, I had 7 days to get a brand new Landcruiser with a tent built into the top of it (pictured) from Darwin to Brisbane. It cost me absolutely nothing for the vehicle (which had a fridge, bedding, gas stove and kitchenware), and they threw in $200 fuel. In the end, an extra $400 diesel was the main cost, to get back down to Brissy. So, as an alternative transport option, it wouldn't have been worth it; flying is cheaper. But as for 5 days of road trip adventure, with a vehicle that doubles as accomodation, and an opportunity to see the wide expanses of our beautiful country by road, it is a pretty sweet deal.
Darwin was humid and relaxed and it was a real joy to catch up with my friend, Chris. I met a bunch of his lovely friends, we shared food and beers and played music for most of our time. We also took a trip out to Litchfield National Park where we walked and swam through some lovely water holes and under waterfalls. That day I forgot to take a pair of shoes, which would've been fine were the sun not scorching the stone path to a billion degrees in the afternoon heat. Fortunately my good friend Marty shared his thongs and in doing so, the burden of pain.
Before I left, I made sure to stock up on music, podcasts and audiobooks for my 7 hr daily drives. But it turns out, I preferred mostly familiar music and hardly listened to anything new the whole trip. Some of the highlights were the first two thirds of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (in audiobook form) and getting well acquainted with Pheobe Bridgers' Stranger in the Alps, which will surely be a contender for my album of the year (blog forthcoming). Get around that record if you like sadness and good song-writing. Otherwise, the trip offered abundant time to think as I gunned across endless red plains and sat in my camp chair in each day's last light, spooning poorly reheated lasagna. Time to think and journal in nature's quiet was valuable.
The trip back was alright, I'll be honest. Driving long hours each day was uncomfortable and boring at times and I often struggled to enjoy camping, setting up each evening. I lost my appetite real quick, and am only really getting it back now, a week on. I think my body missed regular physical activity. I guess the freedom of it all, represented by photos of the wide open road and starry skies, can seem pretty utopian. So I'm just trying to keep it real here. Truth is, I probably would've enjoyed the trip more if I had company. But, I am lucky to be able to even take a trip like this, leave last minute and have very few responsibilities. I did my best to appreciate the time I had.
On another note, the Landcruiser was incredible, didn't so much as blink an eye over the 3500km. It makes me want to buy one, which would be about 95% bad decision. When you're travelling that kind of distance though, its nice to have a reliable vehicle. Cruise control too, good lord.
On my third night, I stopped just shy of Longreach, at an open site along the Thomson river. Having had left early that morning, I had a little time to explore before the sun went down. I picked my way across the dusty parking lot and wild chooks roaming, to the river. Ran into a group of boys jumping off the bridge into the brown flow that headed toward the sunset. I started chatting to them and they dared me to jump in. I did. A refreshing swim and rare interaction on the trip. I walked back to my camp dripping, with a smile spreading across my face as I said farewell to the boys.
So all in all, the experience of driving back wasn't that great. But, I'd still recommend it. Because life is made rich with spontaneity, risks and challenges, and sometimes you just don't know how things will turn out.