The travel plan for our trip north – 2020
We usually try to get to our destination quickly when travelling to the top end to get away from the southern winter. Being mindful of fatigue and road safety, we will often travel distances of between 400 to 700kms a day, always staying in tune with our body clocks and travelling only at the times we know we’re alert and fully awake. For us that means early morning starts and making sure we’re off the road before 4pm. Both Paul and I are definitely morning people, so being off the road before any sign of dusk is vital for us to avoid travel fatigue.
This trip we decided we’d try something different with slightly shorter travelling days, and more of them. We carefully planned all our travel days with none to be more than 450kms. We wanted to focus on the journey this time, not just the destination. Using Wiki Camps we made our plan. 337kms on our first day took us around the outskirts of Perth and saw us to our first destination, Wannamal (near New Norcia).
This has become both our favourite first, and favourite last stop on our trips to and from the north of our country. It skirts the city of Perth and seems to get us on the way quickly. See the map below for the full travel plan of overnight stops:
So how did it go, did we stick to it? (We’re notorious for not sticking to plans. ) Almost! We found we had time for a more leisurely breakfast, and for Mr Tilly to enjoy a short walk before we set off each morning, and we were still on the road most days by around 8.30am. We arrived at each days planned overnight roadside stop some time between 12.30 and 2pm. This meant we had a few hours of daylight to enjoy a good walk and to explore the surroundings, and to wind down at the days end. We stayed with the plan for all the stops with the exception of Stanley, the very last one. It was prior to mid-day when we arrived at Stanley, and Broome was calling. With only 209kms to go and so much time left in the day, we decided to keep going.
Picking our overnight free stops
So, how do we pick an overnight stops. We look at all the available destinations on Wiki camps, and by clicking on them we find what is available there, and how many stars the place has earned from independent travellers, people just like us who are travelling the roads. I’ve used Kirkalocka as an example below. You’ll see that the first thing that pops up when clicking on Kirkalocka is the facilities available there. (We have previously marked Kirkalocka as a favourite – hence the heart)
You can see that a 24 hour stop is allowed, dogs are permitted, there are toilets, a dump point for caravan toilets to be emptied, bins, fire pits and picnic tables there. There is also telstra reception, and it is suitable for tents, mobile campers, camper trailers, caravans and big buses. It has gained more than 4 stars so, it’s likely to be a reasonable place, and will attract travellers in sufficient numbers so as we’ll feel safe.
Next we read the independent reviews on Wiki.
And we look at the photos that people have posted on Wiki.
The road side places are usually free, although some require a small donation (Wannamal asks for a small donation).
With the stops planned, and knowing the distances between places we start to look out for the signage to alert us as to when we need to start slowing down and signalling that we’re turning off the highway. The signs are blue, some with just a ‘P’ and perhaps a picture of picnic table indicating what sort of a stopping place it is. Or if it’s a big, well equipped place such as Kirkalocka, it’ll be quite a big sign showing the availability of toilets. See below:
I always think the etiquette at overnight free stops is similar to the etiquette used in an elevator. You space out according to the amount of people there, that is, if you are the second person to arrive you park no closer than coo-ee distance from the first person who has parked up. You don’t park bumper to bumper, but you can park close enough to feel the safety of being within shouting distance for safety. If the place fills up, then people start to fill in the gaps. There have been times when we’ve awakened to no more than 12 or so vans spaced roughly at equal distances from each other, and there have been other times when we’ve woken up to more than a 100 travellers with lots of small vans and tents fitting in wherever they can. Most of the places with facilities such as those at Kirkalocka have the capacity to fit in hundreds of travellers at a time.
The stand outs from this trip
As always, the scenery in the wide open spaces of the Australian outback impresses. The words of Dorothy MacKellar’s poem, My Country, always come to mind, In the opening verse Dorothy acknowledges the countryside of England speaking of ‘ordered woods and gardens’, as a love she cannot share for her ‘love is otherwise.’ Then starts Dorothy’s most famous verse starting with, ‘I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains…’ and in her final verse more words than resinate with me on our road trips, ‘all you who have not loved her, you will not understand’. I love Australia, and I understand her poem fully. I can happily sit in a car for hours with vast expanses of wide open plains broken every now and again but scenery such as this to look it.
Our stand out overnight stop this time was at a place called Albert Tognolini. It’s situated off the Great Northern Highway with Karijini National park in the distance. There’s a look out several hundred metres off the road, and from there, there are tracks that lead up high for miles inland offering spectacular views, especially when the sun rises in the morning lighting up the deep red ranges below. You can only stop there if you’re self contained, but it’s stunning, panoramic scenery has earned it almost 5 stars on Wiki camps despite it’s lack of facilities.
So that’s our trip up to Broome for 2020. We’ve now been here for a week, and have seen some more of the stunning sunsets that Broome is famous for, but nothing could have prepared me for one of them. Soon I’ll post some of pictures of the most amazing and unique sunset I’ve ever seen, so watch this space…..