Everybody’s signals for this are different, and for me the indicators came just south of Cunnamulla.
One of the pleasures of outback travel is the camaraderie among travellers. As you drive past another car the drivers lift a finger in acknowledgement. It happens more when you’re off the main roads, and most often when you’re on dirt. When you’re driving on dirt roads outback there’s less traffic, and more sense of sense of solidarity between drivers.
We’d been back on the tar for a while. Since we hit the Diamantina Development Road south of Jundah (and south of the amazing Barcoo River). Although we were on tar we were on smaller roads, through wide open spaces and small towns. I’m not sure how long that will stay the same. There’s more tar now than there was 2 years ago when I was up this way, and we drove through a lot of places where they were widening and tarring the roads.
And then we hit Cunnamulla and things changed, almost instantly. Driving south from Cunamulla towards NSW and Bourke we were back on a main road – the Mitchell Highway. As we drove out of town we met a car going the other way. As I’d been doing for what seemed forever, I lifted my fingers in acknowledgement. No response. Nothing, nada, zip.
Then it happened again. And again, and again.
I was devastated. It was the strongest indicator that we weren’t in the outback anymore, and the trip was coming to an end.
After waving to other drivers for so long, it was almost instinctive now. Every time we met a car coming in the opposite direction my fingers lifted off the steering wheel almost of their own accord. And every time I was disappointed. Well, almost every time. In the 255k from Cunamulla to Bourke only 2 people waved back. It changed my whole mindset about where I was and what I was doing almost instantly. From travelling in the outback, I was now just going home.
We were planning on staying in Bourke for a day or two, but once the trip is over, it’s over. We decided to keep going. It was getting cold (and even colder at night), and in our minds we were almost home anyway. So I kept driving.
By the time we hit Nyngan it was dark and cold, and the kangaroos were hanging out by the side of the road making driving even more of an adventure! We couldn’t even be bothered pitching the tent again so got a room at the pub. We slept, got up again and kept driving.
The last two days I drove over 1,000k, stopping only to sleep and eat, just to get home. If only I had a pair of ruby slippers!!! The weather was a contributing factor (it was getting cold even during the day), but something as simple as lack of waving from other drivers tipped it over the edge.
So here I am – back at home. Time to unpack, get everything clean again, review what worked and what didn’t, and get ready for the next trip!
What are the signals for you – how do you know when you’re trip is over?