Days 4 – 6: Iron Knob > Wilcannia > Orange > Blue Mountains > Sydney
It’s hard to believe that it’s only been 4 days since we left Yallingup, and yet, it also feels like a lifetime. But, I am proud to say, 2,466 miles, 3 time zones, 2 dozen roadhouses, and several beers later, we have successfully managed to travel across the width of Australia in 6 days. To put this into perspective, it is the equivalent of driving from the top to bottom of Scotland at least 9 times. So, yes, Australia is big, and we travelled a long distance in a short space of time, which means we have been in the car a lot this past week. We had to do the drive a lot quicker than we originally planned because we decided to stay in Yallingup for Christmas, and we wanted to be in Sydney for New Year’s Eve to see some friends from home. But, that’s not to say we didn’t have time to take in plenty of weird and wonderful things along the way.
After a stormy night in Iron Knob, we headed towards Wilcannia via Broken Hill (could there be a better outback name?) for one of our final stopovers. The roads are now a lot more interesting than the famously straight and empty Nullarbor we just crossed, so we were all looking forward to the thought of this. On our way out of Iron Knob, we stumbled across a side-road that led to Hancocks Lookout. The storm clearly did a lot more damage than we realised, as we had to dodge several fallen trees and cross eroded terrain, until we finally arrived at the lookout 7 km later (although it felt like a lot more after the drive!) We saw lots of kangaroos, emus, horses, goats, and birds along the way, so if you like wildlife then it’s a great little detour to make (provided you have the right car!)
Next, we stumbled upon this giant red gum tree, estimated to be more than 500 years old (not sure if the picture does it justice):
With the help of our good friend WikiCamps, we managed to find a really nice space to camp in Wilcannia, which was a big river-port town many years ago. Today, it comes across as a rather sad, disenfranchised place, and the pinnacle of Aboriginal disadvantage in Australia, which is a whole other side to the country that I’m still not quite sure what to make of yet. That being said, I would highly recommend staying at Warrowong Campsite for a night or two, because it offers beautiful green campgrounds, incredible amenities in spotless condition, and it’s a good spot for meeting other travellers because of the cosy communal area. We also saw one of the most incredible sunsets that night:
Wilcannia > Orange/Bathurst
Yet again, after Wilcannia, we planned our next (and final) stopover through WikiCamps, which revealed a gorgeous area for free camping in Vittoria Forest. Since we were ahead of schedule, we had time to treat ourselves to a wine-tasting during a stop in Orange. We headed to Philip Shaw based on the good reviews online – we didn’t get the best service in the world (potentially just a case of our waitress being a bit too laid-back, as she was friendly when we could get her attention), but cheese and wine is always a way to my heart, and Philip Shaw didn’t disappoint on that front. We felt as though we had treated ourselves to the greatest luxury of all time, and left with big smiles on our faces. Orange itself is a well-known wine-region and foodie haven, with lots of gourmet eateries and impressive wineries scattered across the city. Well-worth exploring for a day or two, but we were keen to get to the campsite in good time so we could enjoy the afternoon for a change, since our drive was a lot shorter than usual today.
Kicking back for a well earned rest in our camp chairs, we finally started to feel like we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, as we only had a 4 hour drive to go the next day, which quite frankly is a piece of cake for us now 🙂 We shared a bottle of wine that we bought in Orange, and lots of exchanges of “can you believe we’re nearly there!?” It’s a strange feeling – driving through time zones and setting up somewhere completely different each night – but it’s also pretty exciting.
Orange > Sydney via Blue Mountains
As we started winding through the Blue Mountains, it suddenly dawned on me that we were heading towards Australia’s biggest city after a week of solitude and living in peaceful campgrounds in the outback – I didn’t know whether to squeal with joy or turn the car back around. Of course, we powered towards the final destination as if our lives depended on it, as Troy’s engine really struggled up the long ascents and we were being overtaken by trucks three times our size (don’t worry, the mechanic is checking him out as I write this). Since we wanted to get to Sydney by lunchtime, we didn’t hang around in the Blue Mountains but visited the well-known Echo Point Lookout over the Three Sisters.
We took our pictures of the views and had a wander around the town, but we were anxious to get on the road again as we heard some horror stories about Sydney traffic, and we had no idea how we were going to navigate Troy on the highway, or find a free parking spot… Needless to say, we made it in one piece, and the luxury of staying in an air-conditioned Air B and B for one week feels like we have just arrived in a 5-star hotel. It has quite honestly been the trip of a lifetime to get here, and yet, we have so much ahead of us after Sydney – I can’t wait to see where our adventure goes next!
Next time, you can read about my top tips and things to do when visiting Sydney.