Hauling our way across Australia, here we have an update delivered between interrupted sleeps and stints behind the wheel, as we make our attempt at setting a new record for circumnavigating Australia’s big island by car.
Marlow, the narrator and main character in Joseph Conrad’s heart of darkness describes traversing a serpentine Congolese jungle river as traveling back in time the deeper into the unknown you go.
In less then 24 hours since setting off from the gateway bridge in Brisbane we’re in proper rural Australia. Highway 1 devolves into a single lane , unmarked bitumen strip cut through north central Queensland.
Tombstone anthills, thousands of them, on both sides for miles. The outback is still but ominous, and it somehow seems to know we don’t belong.
We hurtle through in our fully kitted out Land Cruiser. Comfortable, excited, fixated on the average speed. A scavenging bird zigs instead of zags, suddenly becoming the kind of roadkill it was stripping moments before. I bet he felt invincible.
We buy more diesel in Croydon, stretch, and head out of town at dusk.
Where others have cut left inland to Mt Isa, we cut right, staying true to Highway 1 even if it doesn’t look much like the Highways we know.
The next 1100 kilometres are mostly on dirt road of varying quality. Deep corrugations, erosion, creek crossings and wildlife… a lot of wildlife.
At this point in time, the sun has set, making our timing ideal. Caravans and grey nomads have retired for the evening and our spotlights act as a forward beacon for the two cars that we saw for the entire unsealed stretch.
This also allowed us to set our own pace and use all the road’s width, as we glide across the corrugations like a WRC champion and launch out of eroded ditches like a cannonball – generally still within the very generous speed limits that govern rural “highways”.
Despite having no regard for the well-being of the Cruiser, it performed incredibly and when we finally return to the smooth pavement, all drivers were shocked that the car still drove like it rolled out of the dealership.
At that stage it would still be several hundred kilometres before we discovered our CarAdvice number plate was dangling only by the lightbulb wire, after being shaken loose by the heroics.
The 1100km stretch between Normanton and Daly Waters were knocked over in 11 hours – one-third the time prescribed by Google Maps. We high-fived to celebrate the trip’s greatest unknown, and carried on, as the day was only half complete.
The Darwin spur would have felt redundant had it not been for the well-placed public bathroom stop at the water’s edge of Highway 1, and a quick Facebook Live stream from the Highway 1 to Hell Facebook page.
The run from Darwin back to Katherine and onto Kununurra was filled with spectacular scenery and pace, the only frustration, leaving behind the Northern territory’s appropriate 130km/h speed limit.
Stay tuned for more, when and as we’re able to deliver it! (These are hectic times, friends…)
MORE: Highway 1 to Hell series