The long drive home


November 25, 2010 by jessperriam

Have you ever driven nearly 800 kilometres a day, five days in a row just to get home?


Have you ever driven that stretch in convoy… with your parents?

No… didn’t think so.

But I have. And it didn’t kill me.

I had decided to move back to Perth from Orange, NSW. For the uninitiated, here’s where point A and point B lie:


And what better way to move back than take an epic road trip – all 3800-odd kilometres of it.

I’d finished work as a baby online reporter (read: paid tourist) in Orange with a bang: The 2009 Parkes Elvis Festival. Proof:

Perriam as Priscilla.

My car was packed to the gunwales, as was my parents’ car. After I gave my furniture to my housemate, I really only had enough possessions to fill two modest sized sedans.

I left Orange on the Tuesday. And it was hard pulling out of the driveway and waving goodbye to my housemate. It was just as hard to get my last coffee at Bill’s Beans. There were tears, friends. Real tears at the loss of proximity to my favourite caffeine dealer.

But we had to hit the road early – it was gearing up to be a stinking hot day and we had to be across the border in Victoria by the end of it. 772 kilometres.

It felt like any other day on the road for my job. Until we got past Forbes. Then I knew I was no longer a Central West, NSW resident anymore. I had a little pang of sadness.

It was hot and the further we drove, the higher the temperature climbed.  I had Mum in the passenger seat, talking back to the talkback radio program.

And the road ahead kept going, past West Wyalong (or Dub-ya Dub-ya as Danny the office cleaner used to call it) and into the Hay Plain.

A word of warning for those planning on driving through the Hay Plain – be prepared to be bored by the dullest landscape in the world. There is nothing but low shrubs and the watery haze ahead. Have good music or a good passenger on hand, lest you fall into a coma from the never-ending vista. If I remember correctly, Alan Brough’s brilliant summer afternoon program kept me awake.

It was around this time that we were really feeling the heat. We stopped at a roadhouse near Balranald to discover it was 47 degrees Celsius outside. Up until then that was equaling the hottest weather I’d ever been subjected to (Egypt has since taken the cake). I was thankful for my car’s air conditioning and we carried on our merry way.

Until we hit a traffic jam just before the Victorian border, in the middle of nowhere.

Cars and trucks were stretched kilometres back in each direction. And for a while nobody really knew why. People got out of their cars to see if anyone else knew. But most retreated back into their cars without an answer.

But then we saw drivers peeling out of the queue, pulling over to the right hand side of the road and through a gap in the fencing. This provided a new road for us to get past whatever it was that was holding us up.

As we were driving through the dust, we looked to our left to discover what the hold-up was: a fatal car crash. My stomach lurched at the thought of the horror of that split second that changed the lives of many. I later learned that the man killed in the accident had been on his way from Brisbane to Adelaide within 24 hours. Another long Australian road trip, yet fatigue wasn’t factored in.

We arrived safely in Mildura and had dinner at the RSL club – it’s something of a tradition on family road trips to have one of two kinds of meals:

*dinner at the local RSL, or;

*a counter meal at the local pub.

So either way it’s Grey Nomads or salt of the earth central. No better way to have dinner in an unfamiliar place.

We left Mildura early then next morning to make our way to Kimba, South Australia.  Yes, there really is a town called Kimba. Not named after Kimba the White Lion.  Although now I have the Kimba the White Lion song stuck in my head.

It was only an hour or two to get to the Victorian/South Australian border.

A bit further along and we had morning tea at Cadell and normally I wouldn’t mention where I had morning tea because that smacks of a boring travel journal. But to drive west of Cadell you need to stick your car on a wee ferry that will take you to the other side of the Murray River. Like so:

Wondering why they didn't just build a bridge to get over it...

The rest of the day’s 700 kilometres was relatively uneventful – we were skirting everything that makes South Australia a nice place. We were so close yet so far from Adelaide and the Clare Valley.

So we kept driving and at this point I remembered that sometimes having my mum as a passenger can be akin not having a passenger in the car. Behind her sunglasses she can take a nap of champions.

We reached Kimba which is famous for a giant fibreglass white lion pink and grey galah.

My Dad + the Kimba galah = touristastic

Kimba would be lucky if it had a population of a few hundred (plus one giant galah) so it was pub meal time.

I love the fact that the further away you drive from a city, there’s a greater chance of chicken schnitzel being on the menu. The further away you are from the city, the more the word ‘schnitzel’ morphs. Shnitzel? Snitzel? Why don’t we just give it a good nickname like Snitty?

I think size of the schnitzel is directly proportionate to said distance from a city. By my theorem, the schnitzel I ate that night was as big as my head, if not bigger. My head is pretty small, you know.

By the end of the meal we all felt like we had food babies and it we needed to sleep it off to tackle the next part of the trip – the Nullabor.

To be continued…

Today is Thursday, therefore this is a Travel Tale of sort. Check out the rest at Travel Tales Thursday.


7 thoughts on “The long drive home

  1. Katia says:

    I love the bit, “I had Mum in the passenger seat, talking back to the talkback radio program.” That’s what you’re forced to do, really, in long trips, as if there is a third person in the car.
    Chicken Schnitzel. Chicken Kiev. Chicken Parmigiana. All chicken, all breaded, all staples of the great aussie pub grub.

  2. Tim White says:

    A couple of friends and I did Perth -> Melbourne in 3 days, because we’re that kind of crazy. I hope you didn’t end up on the 90 mile straight at 3am, because that was one of the more terrifying experiences of my life. Roos everywhere!

    • jessperriam says:

      I’d love to do that – drive an insane distance in a seemingly impossible amount of time. But I also want to drive through all of the countries ending in -stan or -jan in a van over a summer. Because I’m that kind of crazy.

  3. Carol Perriam says:

    At least I don’t snore plus I had traveled that route a week before, and I never get asked to drive. I don’t remember talking back to the radio must be old age.
    love you mum

  4. Peter Perriam says:

    Which one’s the galah???

  5. […] kilometres home from Orange, NSW to Perth within five days. With my parents. You can head back to the first part of the story to catch up, we’ll still be here waiting for […]

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