Friday, December 28, 2012

A little drive in the country

This Christmas S and I decided to pop out and visit his family.  Pop out from Canberra to Adelaide.  For those not that familiar with Australian geography, that is a 1,190km or roughly 12 hour drive.  To put it in perspective, it is just a little short of the distance from Paris to Rome or roughly the distance from New York to Chicago.

Even in Australia it is considered quite a way to go but certainly nothing that anyone was particularly surprised we would do in a single day.  There is something about growing up in a country filled with vast spaces that breeds a notion distance is not something to be feared, it is just a fact of life to be dealt with.

The drive is a long one and there is no doubt that it is tiring to sit for an entire day in a car.  We didn’t stop for any period of time, except to change drivers every couple of hours and once to refill with diesel, thankfully my very economical car meant that we could do the trip on just under two tanks each way.

But there is something wonderful about a drive like that.  Watching the way the countryside changes.  From broad acre farms, to lush river frontage, to the dry mallee.  We saw herds of cattle and sheep, mobs of kangaroos and the occasional flock of emus.  The interior of Australia is harsh, yet quite stunningly beautiful and we didn’t even get close to the desert.

While some highways in Australia are modern, big wide duel carriageway, most are still a single lane in each direction.  They follow meandering routes, along the edge of rivers, through small towns and you know that they are following routes that were laid down hundreds of years ago by the first settlers and probably long before that by the Aboriginal people who lived here first.

The towns have gorgeous names, things like Ouyen, Pinnaroo, Nuriootpa, Waikerie, Murrumbateman, Jugiong, probably all Anglicised versions of misheard Aboriginal words.  Many are tiny, a few houses clustered around a pub, service station and grain handling facility.  Some are more like villages, with a school and the inevitable cricket/AFL field.  But then you go through the regional centres, Wagga Wagga, Hay, Mildura and Renmark.  From the perspective of the city it is easy to forget how many thousands of people live hugely productive lives in the inland of our country.

Many of the farm gates we passed were decked out for Christmas.  There was tinsel galore and more than one scarecrow dressed in a Santa suit.

We played music, chatted, ate an in car picnic and at either end of the trip we had family waiting to greet us.

It is not a trip to be made easily.  I may be Australian and distance doesn’t phase me, but it is true that it can be dangerous on the roads at this time of year and a full day is a long time to be spent in a car.  However each time I make a trip like this, particularly one I haven’t made before, I love the great insight it gives to this amazing country which I get to call home.

How do you feel about a road trip and have you done any 12 hour ones?  Oh and who else is amazed by the photos my phone managed to take while we were driving (plus how many splattered insects can you count on our windscreen)?