Travel Theme : Roads

I’m running a bit late with this challenge from Ailsa of “where’s my backpack?”. Already the next theme has landed in my mail box, but I really want to tell you about the amazing roads around Australia.

This theme makes me think back to the road trip we did around Australia in 2010. 37,000 kilometres and it took a year to complete. Yes Ailsa, roads are the hero’s of every journey but so are the men that built them.

Only 200 years ago all that existed in Australia were tracks through the bush. The trails the Aboriginals had formed during  thousands of years of their nomadic hunting and gathering existence. A seasonal wandering that followed the food chain.

Then Europeans arrived to carve a living from this land and road building began.

Picture in your mind’s eye the formidable task these pioneers faced. Rugged bush, raging rivers, impenetrable rainforests, mountain ranges or vast expanses of desert, strange animals, snakes, mosquitos even plants that could poison you and of course the resident natives. But over and above all these physical difficulties they had to contend with the weather system. The heat, the torrential rain, the storms or the drought.

With basic tools, a small work force but great determination the tracks gradually became sealed roads snaking around the continent.

As modern earth moving equipment and machinery replaced the pick, shovel and wheelbarrow the road network spread. Now you can travel the 14,000 kilometres round the perimeter of Australia fondly known as “the big track” by travellers and it is sealed all the way.

In 2010 we embarked on our epic journey to explore this great land. One year and 37,000 kilometres later we arrived home having travelled over many of Australia’s iconic highways.

So belt up, settle in, have your camera ready, here we go…..

Barkly highway

Barkly highway

The Matilda and Barkly highways stretch and shimmer through the golden Mitchell grass plains in a heat haze to the horizon. Constructed along the original drovers tracks that were formed as the pioneers moved their huge herds of cattle to the markets on the coast.

Matilda highway

Matilda highway

Matilda highway, oops the drovers have left this one behind!

Matilda highway, oops the drovers have left this one behind!

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The Great Ocean Road is classed as one of the great scenic drives and a monument to the men that forged it from solid rock using picks and shovels in the 1930’s depression era. This time it was raining. Road gangs were fixing parts of the road that had been washed down in recent heavy rain. What a different picture it presented from the previous time I had visited in 2005. That time the sun sparkled on the ocean and turned it to a deep aquamarine. This time it was grey and dismal, but it was still a spectacular drive.

Great Ocean Road information

Great Ocean Road information

Tribute to the men that built this road

Tribute to the men that built this road

Great Ocean Road, in the rain

Great Ocean Road, in the rain

Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road

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The Alpine Way snakes up and over the Snowy Mountain part of the Great Dividing Range. The views across the ranges are breath-taking. The undulating peaks fading into shades of purple, lavender, blue and grey as they meet the horizon. The slopes are stark and almost denuded of trees and foliage from the bush fires of 2004, six years previous.

The Alpine Way over the Snowy Mountains

The Alpine Way over the Snowy Mountains

Alpine Way

Alpine Way, a small part of the regrowth with the dead branches still exposed.

The orange markers are to show the side of the road in winter

The orange markers are to show the side of the road in winter

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Finally that mecca for the traveller around Australia “The Nullarbor”. It is not called road or highway it is like a very famous person, it is just “The Nullarbor”.

In the past, before it was sealed and partly tamed, it struck terror in the heart of travellers. It claimed many lives. The heat, the wind howling across from the Great Australian Bight, the endless flat, straight ribbon of road contrasted by occasional violent, terrifying storms, lashing rain, howling winds and thunder and lightning. It loomed as a monster. You would receive a certificate “I have survived The Nullarbor” when you had braved the 1,100 kilometre crossing. The clogging red bull-dust in summer and the mud in winter trapped many travellers. Only well equipped  4WD vehicles with chains, food, water and if possible in convoy would attempt the crossing. It had a formidable reputation.

Now it is fully sealed two lane highway. The weather can still be a challenge but it is accessible by all vehicles.

We took 4 memorable days to do the crossing.

The Nullabor

The Nullarbor

More pedestrians to watch for

More pedestrians to watch for

This part of the Nullabor is also an emergency airstrip

This part of the Nullarbor is also an emergency airstrip

For a bit of light relief along the way you can watch for these strangely adorned trees.

The Nullabor shoe tree

The Nullabor shoe tree

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These are just a few of the famous highways of Australia. There are still many unsealed tracks crisscrossing the centre of the continent. The Birdsville track is just one of many through the red centre.

corrugated, red dust track

corrugated, red dust track

This is just a short 15 kilometre track out to the coast but our old Matilda was not too happy about bumping over those corrugations, and getting filled with the fine red dust….

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Categories: Australia, outback, photography, roads, Snowy Mountains, travel theme | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Travel Theme : Roads

  1. Wow, what an amazing journey you guys went on, and what a spectacularly diverse country. I had no idea, gosh, I want to hit the road in Australia right now.

    • I am planning to go to the red centre this winter. I’ve not been along the Stuart Highway yet and I am looking forward to it.

  2. wonderful roads around our huge island … you have seen more of it than i have!

    • I am always amazed at how good the condition is of most of the main roads. Makes travelling such a joy.

  3. I will never get to Australia, but I have a slight idea of what doing so would be like.

    • G’day Joyce nice of you to visit and leave a comment. I think the thing about Australia that overwhelms most visitors is the vastness and distance between places. It is an amazing country

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