Hitting the Road to the Australian Outback

When I am traveling overseas and I tell people that I live in rural New South Wales, they immediately assume that I come from Outback Australia.

Not by a long shot!

This is what Outback Australia really looks like…

Fill up the car with obscenely-priced diesel and load up the car with the esky and 10 litres of drinking water.

Seat belt on, sunglasses on.

Point the car West and drive…

Landscape of remote and far West NSWLeaving my home town, the landscape became progressively flatter and flatter like some great iron had been pressed onto the Earth removing any crinkle or bump. The soil changed too from a dry brown to rich red and orange tones.

Everything transformed before our eyes as the entire scenery reflected the availability (or not) of water. The trees grew sparse, spindly and lower to the ground. Their leaves shrivelled and tinted silvery grey/green to ensure they retained as much moisture as possible. It was easy to spot the course of a river or creek as the trees immediately increased in height and density. What a joy and relief it would have been for early explorers to come across water for themselves and their horses.

Major Mitchell Cockatoo - birdssa.asn.au
Major Mitchell Cockatoo. Source: birdssa.asn.au

Even though the landscape was almost uniformly dead flat, there was still plenty to look at. Bird life was plentiful with a lone soaring Wedgetail Eagle, flocks of raucous pink Major Mitchell cockatoos and opportunistic crows feeding on road kill.

We had arrived in BIG sky country. The crystal clear sky stretched from one point of the compass to the other. It’s not like living or driving amongst rolling hills where hills seem to step up to greet the horizon. Out here it is a complete 180° view of the wild blue yonder.

The Big Bogan statue in Nyngan NSW
Say G’day to The Big Bogan

A sprinkling of remote towns and villages break the journey as the road stretches ever West. The Big Bogan at Nyngan caused all sorts of controversy when he was built. In Australia to call someone a bogan is considered an insult, similar to a loser, an uncouth, rude and/or hopeless individual. Nyngan sits on the Bogan River so, in their defence, they are only capitalising on their natural assets. His launch into the World generated an incredible amount of media attention for the town. No such thing as a bad publicity, I guess.

The further West we drove, the friendlier the traffic became. The Aussie ‘finger flick’ of greeting became standard and it felt rude not to respond. For those of you who plan to drive in the Outback, it is a very easy manoeuvre to learn and perform. Follow these simple steps:

  • As you grip the steering wheel with both hands, simply lift the index finger on your right or left hand as if you are pointing towards the roof of your car.
  • No need to remove your hand from the steering wheel.
  • Only one flick is required as the oncoming car approaches, and
  • this gesture is performed by the driver only.

Easy! You will be a local before you know it!

Dry landscape is reflected in the side mirror of a car - Western NSWAn old man goanna scooted across the road and up the nearest tree and goats, emus and kangaroos made up the wildlife roll call. The drought had taken its toll on the paddocks and they were bare of sheep and cattle. How these farmers and graziers are making a living without any ground water or rainfall is beyond me.

Stepping out of the car, the cooling tick of the car engine was the only sound. There’s no traffic noise, only a slight breeze rippled my shirt and hummed through the fence wire.

The road disappears into the horizon - Western NSWThe dust haze on the horizon swallowed the end of the dead straight road. A glint on a windscreen far off in the distance was the only sign of life and that could have been 20km away. It seemed like the tar road disappeared into the Never Never, completely melted by the shimmering heat mirage.

Willy willies picked up clouds of red topsoil, carried them across paddocks and flung it across the highway.

It is a harsh environment, but there is a stark beauty in its harshness.

The further West we drove, the more I understood why this part of Australia is a movie-maker’s idea of Paradise. Indeed there are many stretches of countryside between Menindee and Broken Hill which became the setting of various Mad Max films.

Miles and miles of nothingness.

A sign showing changing time zones in outback NSWWe had driven so far, we had changed time zones and yet not left the State.

It is a special part of Australia and it would take a special person to live out there. I grew up on a farm, but civilisation was only 30km away. Out there in western New South Wales, it could be 30km to your front gate and mail box, and 200km to buy a loaf of bread.

The constant battle for water, battling the elements and the fact that nothing is easy driven by its very remoteness, I just don’t think I could do it. The trade-off, of course would be the absolute quiet, the constant interaction with nature and the sense of running your own show without interference. This part of the World attracts unique and determined individuals and I imagine you would have to grow up there to truly understand.

Landscape of far west Western NSWThe temperature seemed to climb with every kilometre we drove and by the time it hit 43°C, we knew it was time to turn the car around. 1 957km later we arrived home, back where I fit, back where I belong. Back in the regional, not the remote.

Outback Australia – an outstanding place to visit. A different story entirely to make a life there.

Where is the remotest place you have visited? Or where felt the remotest?

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#outbackaustralia #travelinspo #nyngan #pioneerAustralia #thebigbogan #earlyexplorers #ruralregionalremote #ourbackyard #stayinthebush

21 thoughts on “Hitting the Road to the Australian Outback

  1. A great post. A bit of reality. – not just the perfect picture many like to draw.
    It would be pretty dusty right now .. with the drought, drought , drought.
    I’m always thankful for our farmers but know we have a much easier life closer to the main cities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Annie, it is very grim and the only really easy, but really hard, solution to it all is rain, rain, rain. Surely it has to rain soon and then spoil a perfectly good drought! 😉 Mel


  2. Death Valley National Park. Driving the so-called “Loneliest Road” across Nevada. Also been to parts of Idaho that make you feel like you are alone on the moon, and parts of eastern Montana/North Dakota that are quite remote. Heck, even up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan you can see nothing but pine trees as you drive along a lonely, undulating ribbon of road. When I’m up there I always think, “If I die on this highway, nobody will find me for weeks!” Still none of these places has kangaroos!!! What a kick (no pun intended) it would be to see some in the wild!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No problem with seeing ‘roos in the wild at the moment. They are lining up on my fence line hoping to sneak through the gate when I am not looking just so they can get a nibble of the remaining grass that once was our lawn. Even Skippy is feeling the effects of the drought!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ha! The finger flick! That’s exactly what they do in farm country of the Mid-West!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. WOW! I did not know that. Here I was thinking it was only an Aussie thing! Looks like I am now suitably qualified to drive across the US! 😉 Mel


  4. I love any of these drives, although the ones I do I most often are to either Melbourne or Yamba from the Central Coast. Seeing a wedge tail is magical – aren’t they the most majestic of creatures? Safe travels, Anne

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, love to see the Wedgies out and about. Such a powerful and graceful bird. Safe travels to you too over the Festive Season too. Mel

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Australia has always been my dream since I was a child but I still could not go … I imagine the emotions you felt dear Mel.
    The most remote place I have ever been was the beautiful island of Bali…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Look forward to seeing you in Australia one day. We are choking with bushfire smoke at the moment, so maybe postpone your visit for a bit longer! Have a great day, Mel

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes I saw 😪….but one day I will go in Australia 😉❤⚘
        Have a nice day my dear friend

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I LOVE those birds … are they the cockatoos? So beautiful, I would love to see them being “raucous” as I love al things raucous. I agree with you, that kind of wide open space and big sky in an ever crowded world is amazing to me, I could definitely not live out there, however. Definitely takes someone special. Happy holidays!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, they are a type of cockatoo who really only live out in Far West NSW. We only get the white ones where I live and believe me, when you get a mob of them together they make a helluva racket! Have a good weekend. Mel

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve been out to Broken Hill by train and coach and driven around Uluru / Alice. Amazing places. So much more Australian than the metropolitan cities on the coast. A harsh landscape and a hard life I imagine. And when I look at that open road with no traffic I remember the scary horror film ‘Wolf Creek’. The Canyons country in USA are similarly beautiful in their starkness. Oh, and as for the finger flick, we do something similar here in the UK when giving way / or being given way to by another driver on our narrow roads.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Wolf Creek was a pretty scary movie! I like scary movies, but that one put the wind up me! So glad to hear you saw more of Aus than just the coastal strip. We are such a diverse country it is wonderful that you saw more than the just the tourist hot spots. A finger flick of hello to you! I am learning that it is much more international than I first imagined 😉 Mel


  8. Haven’t been to Australia in years…love to return…sad to see the fires in Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we have had a very rough start to Summer. Thankfully good raining is falling in some parts of fire and drought ravaged NSW as we speak. May it continue long and gentle. And, you are welcome anytime! 🙂


  9. Yes, that finger flick ☺️ … I grew up in a (very) small town on the West Coast of South Africa and for years I’ve believed that this is the way that people greet each other – until I got to the bigger cities and I was the only one lifting a finger 😅.
    We have many vast and remote places here in South Africa … and we tent to go “wild camping” there often! Maybe not the same as the Outback there by you, but still far from shops, cell phone reception and the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We have recently done a few posts on our blog under “Namaqua Eco 4×4” to show the remoteness of some places in South Africa 👍🏻


    1. I was a bit like that when I moved to Sydney and I would smile at, and try to chat to, every person on the bus on the way to work! And all I got was weird looks and people edging away from me on their seats! I soon learned that I needed to change my ways!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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