Driving in Oz

May 18th, 2004, 08:18 PM
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Driving in Oz

A million thanks to the poster who said that their insurance wasn't on after dusk driving from Darwin to Kakadu. We checked and our rental car doesn't allow for night driving either. We checked sunsets and driving times and checked with the travel agent and she thinks we can make it to Jirabu in time. So, I was wondering if it is just particularly dangerous on that road or everywhere in Oz? We plan to take the Dan Irby night tour at Daintree and drive there from Port Douglas. We will be driving back at night. Is it safe or do we need to look at reservations at the Eco Lodge where his tour ends up? We also have a car at Uluru and will want to view the sunset and drive back to the hotel after dark. Comments, please. Thirdly (and lastly), we will be driving up from Sydney to Jenolan Caves just after we land in Oz. Not at night, but I have been wondering about winter driving conditions. I have heard about the possibility of fog, but what about ice?
Thanks--and thanks to everyone for all your many, many hints and good comments. We are so excited about our trip, and had such fun planning it. This forum is priceless.
Sally and Randy
SnRSeattle is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 12:00 AM
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Hi Sally & Randy,

The only bit I may be help you with is your question about Dan Irby/driving back to Port Douglas. You would find no problems at all - although of course it will be dark at that time of night (about 8 o'clock-ish)there will be very little traffic on the road and it should only take you about 40 minutes to get back to Port Douglas. If you did prefer to stay closer to Daintree for the night there are plenty of choices of accommodation as well as the Eco Lodge (which is only 2 minutes from Daintree Village). Have a look at the Daintree Village Tourism Association website at www.daintreevillage.asn.au.

Hope you have a fantastic holiday!
Daff is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 12:42 AM
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Hi, Sally & Randy - driving almost anywhere in Australia is quite safe (well, as safe as driving generally is). You may find road conditions not always as swish as in the US, due to the fact that 20 million of us have to find the money to provide infrastructure in a continent the size of the lower 48 states of the US. However, unless you really plan to "go bush" you'll be on well-marked sealed roads, often multi-lane. We're not talking Third World here - think Vermont, maybe?

Australians' driving habits are much like those of Americans. Don't be tempted to speed, as police radar traps (and in the cities cameras) are common. In country areas kangaroos can be a hazard, but aside from early morning and at dusk not during the daytime. Likewise wombats in some places, but warning signs will alert you.

In the Blue Mountains, above the town of Wentworth Falls (before you reach Katommba) light snow is possible in winter but not very likely. Ice, no. It can be foggy, though, but mainly at night. You'll enjoy your trip more if you avoid driving at night.
Neil_Oz is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 02:42 AM
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Not to totally disagree with Neil but in outback areas of Australia driving after sunset can be hazardous when it comes to kangaroos and cattle. A lot of our outback roads are poorly fenced so cattle do tend to wander about on the roads. Emu's are also a bit of a problem in outback South Australia.

It always pays to look for kill zones, these are pretty evident by the blood stains and the carcasses, when you come across these areas it pays to be very vigilent. Also keep an eye out for the damn eagles, during the daylight hours, that tend to congrugate around the road kills, they can sure make a mess of a car if you hit one and that is easy to do as they tend to stand their ground right up to the last second.


Paul_S is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 04:35 AM
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We look upon Neil as our resident expert re things Australian. However, we recently returned from a tour into the Outback and recall one instance where it was a good thing our bus driver was very alert.

As we rounded a (rare) curve on the road between Alice Springs and Uluru, we were surprised to find six adult and very dead camels lying on the highway. Seems these critters have multiplied until they have become virtual pests and wander about in the dark. These six -- and they were very big -- had been struck down by a road train in the night. A road train, in case it's a new term, is a huge truck pulling up to as many as three trailers and going at very high speed. What a mess that collision must have made of the front end of the truck. But those camels were all over the place. Watch out!
USNR is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 04:35 PM
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And, of course, watch out for Aussie drivers, anywhere and everywhere! Some of them haven't worked out how to use indicators.

Be especially careful of those wearing hats. (or me!)
margo_oz is online now  
May 19th, 2004, 04:48 PM
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USNR, as you and Paul_S have just demonstrated, you're far too kind in regard to my sadky too localised knowledge on matters Australian. I shouldn't have overlooked the cows and camels, even if the latter are somewhat thin on the ground around Canberra. Fact is, I've only ever seen one in the zoo, and I don't trust cows. Being close enough to determine what sex the thing is is too close, in my book.

I understand that camels were brought to Australia, with their Afghan drivers, in the 19th century (giving rise to the name of the "Ghan" train). Just another imported beast that's found the country to its liking and bred out of control. I've seen large herds of wild donkeys in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, and water buffalo in the Northern Territory and wild horses in the Snowy Mountains are serious environmental problems. Cane toads and rabbits are major pests, but at least you can run over them with impunity. Fortunately, with the exception of cane toads, they're all edible, but there are just too many 'roos to munch through - about 40 million, I read.

Incidentally, maybe someone can comment on the efficacy of a gadget I've been given - it clips on the car's grille and is suppose to warn off kangaroos by emitting high-pitched tones. I haven't used it because kangaroos, like all marsupials, are extremely stupid animals and in my experience are just as likely to jump onto the road as away from it when alarmed.
Neil_Oz is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 04:55 PM
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The only bad report we ever heard of Margo's driving is that she got a parking ticket.

We drove out from Darwin to Jabiru during the day, but there was very little evidence of road kill. If you are coming back during the day, Fogg Dam and Mamakula (sp?) are excellent stopping points to see birds and crocs.

Driving in Australia is generally easy due to the relative lack of cars on the road and absence of hedgerows. We found drivers courteous.

Unfortunately we usually turned on our windshield wipers when we wanted our turn signals, so Margo may be referring to us

AndrewDavid is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 07:10 PM
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Hello Paul - tell me about those eagles!
A mate of my husband's collected one which mis-timed its take off - it hit the left hand bar of windscreen - the windscreen popped out and a very dead eagle landed in the passenger's lap obliterating driver's vision and nearly causing a head-on with the one and only other vehicle they'd seen for hours. And those roadtrains are bad enough in daylight, where at least you can see the cloud of dust, at least on a dirt road, for miles.
pat_woolford is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 07:49 PM
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It's definitely the kangaroos to be wary of in the NT and outback in general. My sister lives outside Winton in western Qld and rarely drives after dusk because of them - and she has a bull bar on her 4WD.
Look out for Police with speed cameras on other roads - about the only other danger (of getting a speeding ticket) on Australian roads that you'll be driving on.
Amanda is offline  
May 20th, 2004, 04:39 AM
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Hi Pat,

Yes, my wife and I took an eagle into our windscreen about 2 years ago just south of Coober Pedy. My wife was driving at the time as I was trying to have a kip, all I heard was my wife say "oh no" and I opened my eyes to see an eagles butt coming straight at us. At least it did not make it into the cabin.

I have a friend in Adelaide that had a very nasty experience with an eagle he hit. It came through his windscreen but was still alive and it was not a very happy chappy. Before it died it used its beak to snip a very impressive v pattern all along the dashboard and chomped through the steering wheel in 3 places. My friend was lucky to get out of the car without being attacked.

Neil - there are a few people up here in Alice that have those kangaroo whistles and they say they work but that is only cause they haven't hit a roo. There are also quite a few people with those Shoo Roo electronic devices on their cars and they also swear by those things.

For those who have never heard the term Road Train it refers to a Semi that has many trailers attached to it. Usually they have three trailers but in remote areas like mining roads they can have more. They usually measure about 54 meters in length and they take a commanding presence on the road.


Paul_S is offline  
May 20th, 2004, 11:52 AM
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I've experienced exactly that windscreen wiper thing while driving in Ireland and France. If the wipers are on - watch out - I'm going somewhere!

As to my driving, the only person I've driven lately was Michi, and she left the country the next day to avoid any repeats! She would have left that night - but thought she should wait for Bill!
margo_oz is online now  
May 20th, 2004, 08:53 PM
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Rather ungrateful our Michi, considering you took her out to dinner.
AndrewDavid is offline  
May 22nd, 2004, 08:14 AM
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If I had known you use your windshield wipers (that's what they're called in Canada) for turn signals I would never have driven with you Margo - regardless of the offer of a free dinner.

My timid demeanor that evening was probably caused by fright.

michi is offline  
May 22nd, 2004, 10:09 AM
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Thanks, everyone for the useful information on driving in Australia. I was mostly concerned with the lack of insurance if driving after dark and the chances to hit wildlife. I doubt if there are any camels on the road from Daintree to PD, but if there are, I'll be sure to avoid them and report back! Ditto for eagles at night. Thanks also for the suggestions stops on the way back from Jaribu, and for the reassurance about the ice and fog on the Blue Mountains road. We like to drive ourselves to be independent and my husband relishes the challenge of driving on the left, so I think we're set. I'll post our itinerary for people to comment on.
Sally and Randy in Seattle
SnRSeattle is offline  
May 27th, 2004, 08:55 AM
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I noticed someone said don't speed. In Queensland, especially Cairnes and above, if you do the speed limit, you'll wind up with traffic piled up behind you (on rural roads) and if you don't pull over to let them pass (yes, it's the law there, unlike NSW where we have idiot slow pokes on interstate highway treks doing 90kph on the spot with 8 kms of traffic behind them with no overtaking lane for another half hour) .. err, sidetracked. Yeah, if you don't pull over, there's a good chance they'll illegally overtake you and give you the one finger wave, throw things at you, or just generally try and ride your arse until you get the hint.

When driving in Cairns I tend to sit on about 160 kph except windey roads. Road conditions .. well, you hit the odd gravel / dirt road, but nothing dramatic.

As for day only insurance, sounds weird, cough up some more for the extra. No ice by the way, plenty of fog in winter, can bring visability down (well, in Sydney) to about 50 - 100 meters in front of you.

When driving to Ayers Rock (NOT Uluru, that's the tourist flag word that'll get you the super-dooper-double-price-bus-fair to Ayers Rock) do not pull over for anyone, regardless.

While most of the reputation of highwaymen is rumour and just sensationalistic hogwash, it's not worth the risk. Australia never loses tourists to nastiness if it can help it, and one single loss of even a third world biafran backpacker pisses most of us off pretty hardcore. So stay safe.

Daintree rocks, don't stay at the big eco-lodge, it's over priced, everything about it is too wanky and trendy for me. Find the 'Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa', the huts are on stilts overlooking a gully, the place isn't overly touristy, so you can see the daintree with wildlife and no cameras or rubbish that tourists bring with them.

Also, SAVE YOUR MONEY, forget tours. Speak to locals and ask them what's cool and what's not, where to wander and where to drive. Explore on your own.

You see no wildlife when there's a herd of 40 obese tourists stomping through the rainforest chattering, belching and farting and basically stinking the place out.

Two or three people, no crackly plastic, no chatter, no eating and no deoderant and you'll be able to see the place come alive if you walk ten minutes into the bush then wait ten minutes for the silence to settle.

If you have a dud day bushwalking on your own, ring the local hunting club and ask what stalking techniques could be used by tourists wanting to see wildlife. They'd be happy to help as in that region most hunters are mad ecologist fanatics.
xbgtcoupe is offline  
May 28th, 2004, 01:45 PM
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SnRSeattle - I probably don't have to tell you this, but parts of xbgtcoupe's post are so peculiar that the safest bet is to ignore the lot. Especially the bit about driving at 160 km/hr in "Cairnes" (sic).

And ... local hunting clubs? The writer seems to be inhabiting some sort of parallel universe. What would these people be hunting, exactly? Most native animals are protected species, and most introduced animals are either not particularly edible or subject to supervised culling programs. Apart from a brief duck season involving very few people (most of them being protesting animal-libbers) there's nothing here equivalent to America's hunting culture. Farmers can shoot pests, though.
Neil_Oz is offline  
May 28th, 2004, 02:39 PM
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160km in Cairns!! My husband was done the other day for 68kmph. Speed limit for suburban streets is 50kmph; link roads is 60km and the Cook Highway is maximum 100kmph. And it well-policed.
pat_woolford is offline  
May 31st, 2004, 12:02 AM
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I think xbgtcoupe has the odd problem or two. I've seen another post of his (?) in a similar vein. My husband and I and two kids traveled around Australia for twelve months in a bus towing a 4WD and never experienced any kind of trouble whatsoever. Everybody you come across is like minded and it was often because of this 'bush telegraph' that we learned of different things to see/do that aren't in the tourist brochures. Uluru is a very spiritual place and an absolute experience - I'm sure you will 'feel it' also. You must also see Uluru at dawn! and don't forget Kata Tjuta. I must reinforce that you will need to stick to speed limits etc.
claret is offline  
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