Need advice on travelling to the Australian outback? Guest blogger Runaway Jane tells us how she survived a whole month…
On my last trip to the Australian outback I managed to survive a cyclone, a local riot, my flatmate getting bitten by a poisonous spider and a whole host of other things that left my one-month stay feel more like one year! Life in Australia’s outback is so different to life out on the coast and in major cities, I myself experienced an unexpected feeling of culture shock. Below are some of my top tips for surviving a month in the outback…
Watch out for spiders, snakes, and huuuuuuge lizards!
During my previous six months in some of Australia’s largest cities, I never once saw a spider. After one day in the outback I had seen a spider, two snakes and the biggest lizard I’ve ever seen! One of the girls I shared accommodation with actually got bitten by a spider while I was out. Thankfully she survived due to the speedy reactions of some local people, however it did scare the hell out of me. I don’t even like the teeny tiny non-deadly ones you find in Scotland!
It was really great to be able to come back and tell everyone about all the killer beasties I’d seen, even if I did leave out the part about running a mile in the opposite direction. All of a sudden, the non-poisonous spiders back home are starting to look rather sweet and innocent.
Expect to meet some crazy people!
I’m sure there are many lovely normal people who live in Australia’s outback, however I did not meet them! When you consider how far some of these outback towns are from anywhere else, it’s no surprise that some of the community may be a bit, hmmm, sheltered. I was at least four hours’ drive from the nearest little town, and two hours by plane from the nearest city. Many of the people who lived in the towns I visited had never left!
I remember getting off a plane to start work at this little outback pub, and being picked up by a scary Hell’s Angel-type guy with his name “Pidge” tattooed on the back of his head. Everybody seemed to have some crazy back-story, and although it was interesting from a travel perspective to experience all these people, most of them would have felt at home on Jerry Springer.
Get a Telstra sim card!
Anyone visiting the rural areas of Australia will discover the only phone company you can get a signal with is Telstra. When it comes to Australia’s outback, where there are large distances between communities of very little population, it is not cost effective for most mobile phone companies to build a mast. The only company to have done so is Telstra.
When I arrived in the country I had bought a Vodafone phone, assuming that since it was a large international company I’d get good signal almost everywhere. However, when I got to the outback I had no signal on my phone and could not contact anyone. I ended up having to use my UK number to make calls, as there was nowhere to buy a sim card even in the outback town I was working in. I ended up with a whopping great bill when I returned home, and so if you are going into the outback for more than a week I’d recommend getting a cheap Telstra sim card.
Stay away from big ugly miners!
Most backpackers end up in the outback to work. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is the large mining boom in parts of North West Australia. Many miners fly in and out to earn big bucks. This opens up jobs in the shops, pubs etc that the local community doesn’t have enough man-power to fill. They pay a lot more money for the same job as you would get in the city due to the demand, and as a result many backpackers fly in for periods of time to fill these positions and save for their future travels.
Unfortunately for any girls coming to work in the outback like myself, this means you are surrounded my an influx of (mostly) big ugly miners who have been away from their wives for several weeks at a time, and unfortunately don’t have a charming way of expressing that they would like to spend some time with you! Personally, I’m not really into married middle-aged men. Especially not big fat sweaty ones! If that’s you’re thing however, then you’ve hit the jackpot!
Treat local medical care as a luxury!
You have got to question the logic of a community that has no pharmacist or medical centre! Very odd, considering I was told upon arrival that a spider bite could kill me within in 2 hours and should be reported to someone immediately. We were four hours’ drive away from the nearest hospital so apparently you’d need someone with a private jet to fly you there in time. It was ridiculous how few amenities there were.
In total there were two pubs, a combined DVD store/petrol station, a tiny little school and an even smaller post office. That was it. Nothing else. At least you could attempt to drink yourself out of boredom I suppose! There was also a huge truck which had crashed at the side of the road many years ago that they weren’t able to move, and which they then advertised as the local tourist attraction. It was bizarre! If you are making a trip into an outback town make sure you bring a stash of goodies, and basic medical supplies.
Have a sense of humour!
The most important thing you need when heading out into the outback is a sense of humour. Things will go wrong, you will meet some funny people (not the good funny kind), and you’ll get crazy cravings for the simplest of things.
From the safety of the pub I was working in, I watched a caravan (my free accommodation for the month), blow around in the midst of a cyclone! All my belongings were inside, and all I could do was sip a beer in one of the only brick-built buildings in the entire town. If I hadn’t been able to crack jokes then or laugh about it, I don’t think I would have survived the month!
It’s these sorts of moments that you remember on your travels, and although I don’t plan on going back to the outback anytime soon, it has left me with a whole host of incredible memories.
Jane is a freelance travel writer who has been travelling for 3+ years. You can view more of Jane’s travel writing via her travel blog www.runawayjane.com