Veni, Vidi, Vici so Julius Ceasar was quoted to have said and I can beat my chest and say the same. We came, we saw, we conquered. Suffice it to say that you should venture out of the coastal cities of Western Australia only if you are in love with
spinifex shrubs, salmon gum trees, long desolate arid land and smelling dead Kangaroos. If I stophere, it will be grossly unfair. There are great rewards for this uncommon excursion. The amazing stretches of beaches, undulating rolling hills, land formations and the impressive wine country sceneries that you will start experiencing, once you overcome your fear and cross the wide desolate lands are sights that are uncommon in other parts of the world.
The wide open roads appeal to me, in a way that I am still yet to fully comprehend. I seem just unable to resist its call. So I can understand your “what-in-the-heck” feeling on reading this to discover it’s all about one of the longest road expedition known to man. It probably has to do with a sense of adventure, not really knowing what little secret lies behind the next bend or turning on a road. I have done my fair bit of driving, to places that many would just get aboard a plane and fly to. I seem to have a satisfaction in the old age adage that stress the importance of the journey rather than the destination. Flying, for adventures, is not my thing. It simply denies the traveller the experience of the diversity in this beautiful planet that we have been made custodians of. That little cottage on the road, the thriving community in the middle of nowhere, the undulating plains and rolling hills, the magical meeting of the land and sea, the unplanned meeting with the wild – a lone or group of animals crossing the road in search of a meal. The traveller is denied all these experiences and more, when he travels by air. He gains time but loses the opportunity to become one with nature and appreciate its true beauty and diversity.
My recent fascination was to connect with the Pacific Ocean from the Indian Ocean by land. It was a modern day expedition of the sort that Edward John Eyre made in 1840 to reach Western Australia. Ours was to find a route to the city of Sydney on the Pacific Ocean by land from the warm waters of the Indian Ocean that bathe the beautiful city of Perth. Of course many have done this prior to us but we set out to have a unique adventure, like that of no other. To pull this off, we needed a strong will and a great sense of adventure.
The sheer thought of the adventure itself was enough to put many people off. An Hema map of Australia will quickly remind those who have forgotten that Australia is not only a country, it is also a continent. Add to that, the fact that it is a very big continent with the inter land mostly arid. The distances are huge. Perth to Sydney by road without any detour is 3,934 kms. That is daunting and for me, a trip must involve detours. The must-see places are usually away from major roads and I needed to visit these places, experience them, document them and take one or two lessons with me about human civilization and achievements.
The first task was to choose a means of transportation, a beast of burden so to say. The choices were many and the costs varied. We settled on the Toyota Landcruiser. It is simply unbeatable and is widely regarded as the King of the Roads. For Australia’s rugged terrains and harsh weather conditions, the Landcruiser is a capable vehicle. No wonder, Australia is regarded as the Cruiser Country.
The “Explorer” is what you get when you take an already off-road capable Toyota Landcruiser 200 Series, adjudged as the King of the road, and upgrade it. It wasn’t an easy task to get a vehicle retrofitted with the kind of equipment we have on the Explorer. Each of the added upgrade was made to address some perceived risks on this expedition. First, the long range fuel and water tank. The distances in this southern land are enormous and fuel prices are penal in the interior. Replacing the factory fitted 45 litres Petrol Auxiliary Fuel Tank with a Longranger Combination Fuel and Water Tank (122L Fuel and 55L Water) was an amazing feat. This engineering marvel involved repositioning the extra tire from its space underneath the vehicle and using the empty space to hold the new tank.
The guys at ARB were a marvel. A bull bar was added to the vehicle. The Kangaroos that are ever sprinting around the country continue to be a danger to many vehicles. This ARB built bull bar is sturdy and made to also carry a few other equipment around. Mounted on it, was the UHF radio antenna. Getting stuck in any of the remote inland in this wide and sparsely populated continent is a possibility. The UHF radio would help to reach any of the truck drivers or other passer byes to assist with recovery. The Wintech Winch was a needed addition. Heavy and capable to winch the Explorer out of any danger that might have immobilized it. This comes with a prize, the enormous power means it is a heavy equipment and only the ARB bull bar was strong enough to keep it in place. Also mounted on the bull bar is a set of Halogen Lamps and an LED bar light. These were to aid in safe night driving on the bush roads and penetrating the thick darkness of the interior.
The Explorer is not complete yet, it has a raised suspension to increase its ground clearance. A second battery was added to serve as a backup to the main battery as well as provide power to camping equipment. An additional spare tyre was added and now positioned at the back as there is no longer any space underneath the vehicle. This was done by adding a Keymar Spare Wheel carrier at the back for the two tyres. At the top of the vehicle, a roof top tray was mounted. There were a few more accessories added but in general the Explorer is like no other.
Armed with a Hema map, in addition to the in-vehicle GPS map, we plotted our trip. A day was chosen and we got flagged up on the trip from Perth. Peth to Coolgardie was an easy drive. As recent as two months ago, we had followed this road on another trip. Along the way, you will encounter the various pumping stations of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. In fact, the trip will seem like a competition between you, the seemingly unending pipeline and the train tracks. These trio, the road, the rail line and the pipeline, are of great importance to the development of the hinterland, especially the cities of Coolgardie and Karlgolie-Boulder. The most important? The pipeline. Not because it is carrying oil or any other mined commodity, it carries something much more precious. Water. Testaments, as to how precious this water is, are dotted along the lengths of the pipeline where signposts encourage the passers bye to call a certain number if they notice a leak. Depending on whom you ask, a beautiful story of vision, heroism, doggedness and a sad death would be told to you about C.Y. O’Connor – the Engineer responsible for conceiving and developing the pipelines. A 530km pipeline, taking water from Meredin to Karlgorlie was not a simple feat of engineering, even by today’s standard. Yet this was completed and commissioned in 1903, 113 years ago.