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Old 6th January 2016, 12:53   #1
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Smile Our venture at exploring the Australian Outback

What and where is the Outback?

The Outback has always endeared itself as a place of mystery, marked by wide open expanses of countryside, where the soil is more red than brown, where human inhabitants are sparse, and where time seems to have stood still. To some, the outback symbolises the hinterland of Australia, where all major cities are situated by the coast of what is a huge land mass.

We decided to explore within the limits of time available and learn more about this wonderful country and the outback experience. With this thought in mind, we made plans to set out on a trip to Charleville, touted as the Gateway to the "real" outback.

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What started as a passing comment from my wife to a question i posed on the location for our Xmas holidays break, soon took on a more determined plan once i did some research on where to visit, to experience the outback. Taking into account my leaves and time available without taking extra days off, a plan was made spanning over 5 days. Not having planned this ealier, getting leaves at the last moment wasnt easy especially when i worked in a sector which saw its major business during the Xmas shopping season.

Pre-requisites for the trip involved activities such as prepping the car - oil checks, brake fluid check, learning how to change the spare, checking the air pressure on the spare wheel and the likes. Considering how we would be traversing remote areas where help is hard to find, these took on greater importance.

Having a friend along who is ex-Air Force and a powerhouse of knowledge in survival helped reassure whatever apprehensions i may have had at any point. Graham has a certain wit and his immense experience with Australian Defence forces was always an asset.

The trip itinerary was chosen so as to provide us with the chance to stretch the legs of our machines, yet take us to places to entertain the kids who were in the midst of their school holidays.

For motel/hotel bookings we used www.booking.com which has a host of features which include real user reviews, photos, as well as the power to book a place with 0 cancellation charges which in some cases extended to 24 hours prior to the actual date of stay. Trust me, when covering long distances, when itineraries are semi-fluid in the planning stages, and with the risk of running out of options considering the demand during the holiday season, this is a major bonus!

Both wifey and myself have optus mobile connections, which while good within city limits run out of coverage on lonely desolate highways. I picked up a Telstra pre-paid sim which i used on my spare iPhone4 as a backup. This indeed proved to be a wise decision, as time would tell.

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Old 6th January 2016, 13:12   #2
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DAY 1

With a scheduled time of departure as 8AM, we got moving at about 8:30AM, with Graham pulling up to our place in his trusted RAV4 in its rather exclusive bottle green shade.

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Being Xmas day, we decided to avoid the tolled highways and took the Ipswich motorway to head towards Toowomba.

Despite having breakfast at home, it was inevitable that we would need to stop at some place along the way considering the little kids onboard. We stopped at a Maccas (Oz slang for McDonalds) outlet along the way, which soon was to be a regular affair for us during the trip. I bought a bag of ice from the servo to dump in the Eski to preserve/cool the drinks we had.

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We were back on the roads again, with the kids as well as cars refreshed and gradually began the ascent to Toowomba. Braving the speed limits within the city limits, we took the turn to Dalby and were off.

Our first stop was the beautiful Bunya Mountains where the Bunya mountains National Park was to be our trekking destination. The Garmin and Tom Tom GPS units had different ideas on the routes to reach the hills, and took us through some rather beautiful countryside and unpaved roads. Good time for a photoshoot of the rides, perhaps!

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Cattle grazing by the roads
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Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
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Trying to appear lost?
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With a few suspicious turns here and there, we finally made it to the destination.

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Just as we reached atop the mountain, rain descended upon us bringing with it strong winds, setting the trend for the stay there. Wallabies shared the space with humans, each respecting each others territory, making for an interesting experience for the kids.

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A Toyota Hilux modified to be a camper - complete with bed, TV and antennae, and cooking facilities. Dont miss the solar panels on the roof!
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Cabins at Bunya mountains are in high demand during the holiday season, and it is essential to book early. Being a public holiday, restaurants were closed, and it was time for us to fish into the food supplies we had carried along to feed our bellies. A beautiful picnic spot was chosen, and we relished the sandwiches and drinks.

With the weather co-operating, we packed our stuff and ventured to our trek of the National Park along the Scenic Circuit, which was about 5.2 kms. With the heavy rains we just had, leeches were a risk, but we took our chances and kept scaring the ladies with threats of leeches.

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Bunya pines - these were really tall!
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A small waterfall within the National Park
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Old 6th January 2016, 14:37   #3
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Midway into the trek we encountered the Pine Gorge lookout, magnificent in its beauty.

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Soon the kids were tired, and it took some prodding and encouragement to get them to use their own feet rather than piling on us.

Some of the trees were massive Bunya pines, some with Aboriginal markings used to scale the trees, and various other facts which made for interesting reading. Despite clear instructions not to touch the plants/shrubs, my daughter did, as is to be expected with kids, and she got stung by a leaf. The pain persisted for a while, with not much we could actually do.

We made our way to the cars, and began the descent down to Dalby, but not before we stopped at Fishers Point and enjoyed the view from up there.

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Our stop for the night was Dalby which was pretty much all shut being a public holiday. Dinner was therefore restricted to the croissants we had carried along. Not what you would have loved on Xmas day, but you gotta play the cards you are dealt.

Empty streets greeted us at Dalby
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We stayed at the Australian Hotel Motel, which was quite good for the rates we landed. The only negative was having to park on the street, which would have been ok if not for the fact that the following morning the parking spots were charged by meter from 9AM.

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Old 6th January 2016, 16:32   #4
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DAY 2

We woke at our usual times, relaxed and energetic despite the trek the previous day. With our respective rooms side by side, the kids had more fun going from one room to the next and jumping from one bed to the other.

We checked out by 9AM, in time to avoid having to pay parking charges and needless to say it was destination Maccas for brekkie. Despite the so-called health concerns and the like around Maccas, there is a certain predictability in the menu which helps especially when traveling with kids. Give them 2 options, and they come up with infinite combos, so having a familiar menu keeps things in check.

Keeping the lack of food options from the previous evening in mind, we visited the nearby Foodworks outlet and picked up a couple of loaves of bread, as well as jam n honey, just in case history repeated itself.

From there the destination was the historic Jimbour House (http://jimbour.com/), about 27 kms away. As we were to realize, the data connections on our respective mobiles starting acting up, and without having the exact co-ordinates to the place, we ended up going around in circles a bit. However, in the process we ended up discovering an empty stretch of road which we took upon ourselves to engage in some photography sessions.

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What crops are these?
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Many pics later, we decided to trace our way back and came across a tourist board for the Jimbour station. With no luck finding the house, we decided to check out this place instead. We drove up to the entrance and found an honesty box to drop in AU$ 3/- per person for visiting the place.

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Making the necessary donations, we embarked along what was a very beautiful spot. A little chapel set in pristine countryside surroundings, and a path with trees lined on both sides made for a lovely walk despite the sun over our heads.

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Even without realizing, we stumbled upon the place we were looking for - the magnificent Jimbour House. It stood there, in front of us, in all its glory as we went about marveling at the well maintained gardens and lawns.

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Behind the house was a hangar, which probably housed one of those little planes.

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The workhorse of the outback, the Toyota Landcruiser 70 series
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Being lunchtime, we lunched on the lawns near the parking area, under the shade of the trees. The open plains, trees for company, and a cool breeze added to the ambiance.

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Landcruiser donning the Outback attire
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Old 6th January 2016, 17:20   #5
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We got back on the highway and wifey took over the wheel. We navigated our way to the Warrego Highway which was to be our route for most of the trip towards the outback.

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Figurine of the GPS Lady?
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Soon, the traffic began to decrease and road trains and caravans became a familiar sight.

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Most vehicles spotted had bullbars on them which was understandable as the roo population increased in the hinterlands.

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Overtaking was permitted as indicated on the lane markings and it was common to see vehicles yield to those wanting to go faster despite the speed limits pegged at 100kmph in most places and the occasional 110kmph.

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It was interesting to see the road trains as well as other drivers use a similar indicator strategy as practiced on Indian highways, ie flicking the right indicator for one or two flashes to indicate safe overtaking.

Here is one i caught in action:

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The practice i observed here is the overtaking vehicle has the right indicator turned on as long as they are overtaking, and then the left indicator is flicked on indicating the end of the overtaking manoeuver and that they are merging back into the traffic.

We crossed one small town after another, where speed limits dropped to 60 or even 50 kmph in town limits. Don't even think of speeding through these, as there are cameras waiting to snap you. A friend of mine learnt this the hard way falling prey twice along this stretch.

This pic could easily pass of as being clicked somewhere in Kerala
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A railway crossing on the highway!
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With the kids settling into their groove we decided to push ahead and not stop unless required. We were making our way to Mitchell, which was to be our halt for the night.

Roadsigns that made me look
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Notice how the terrain opens up as we push inland
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Old 6th January 2016, 17:42   #6
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We arrive in Mitchell towards 4:30 PM or so, only to bring with us a thunderstorm. The Weather app seems to confirm rain will accompany us this evening.

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By this time, most places we would have wanted to visit in Mitchell would be closed. Or maybe we are too lazy to explore for now.

Bottle trees, a specialty of the region lining the main street of Mitchell
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Slight rumbles of thunder, and the occasional flash of lightning seem to break the monotony of an otherwise tranquil ambience.

We make our way to the Berkeley Lodge Motor Inn on Cambridge Street, but not before we do the now traditional run of going around in circles once trying to find the place.

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The lightning has stopped for now, and there is a slight drizzle. The kids insist they want to jump in the pool. Val, the lady who runs the place says don't go in if there is lightning.
Well-meant advice.

Soon, the kids are in the pool, and having a great time despite the persistent drizzle.

Did i tell you that there is no hot water facility at Mitchell?
Rather, heaters are not used as there is naturally heated artesian water from the Artesian basin which is what we get through the pipes! So, we have mineral water to bathe in.

Val offers to send food in as room service considering the in-house restaurant is undergoing renovation.

Pasta with chicken and carbonara sauce, and fish n chips help soothe our palate which so far managed to find solace on loaves of bread, and packaged croissants. Some chicken and corn soup further sweeten the deal.

We find ourselves in the veranda chatting and relaxing.
Pitter-patter of raindrops accompany our chatter.

After a while, its time to hit the bed. Tomorrow, on Boxing Day we explore Mitchell.
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Old 6th January 2016, 17:50   #7
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With today's distance to be covered to Charleville lesser than usual, we take it easy. Breakfast comprises of toasted bread, butter and jam and then we pack up and load the respective cars.

Among the things to do in Mitchell was the Maranoa River Walk as well as the Artesian Spa.
After some looking around, we find the Spa which is sadly closed till early January. There goes that! We managed to get some pics, nevertheless.

Facilities which allow the differently enabled to experience the spa as well
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As for the river walk, we find the signage, and are disappointed to see it's not what we expected at all.

Notice the sign which indicates the level to which flood water rose during the floods of 2012
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River walk? Really?
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It's hot and humid, and the kids aren't liking it. What was to be a river walk was actually a rather dry body of water and the walk being quite a distance from the river itself.

At the end of the river walk is the Neil Turner weir. Rather than walk, Graham and myself decide to get the cars and drive down to the weir.

We find the weir, which is actually much more interesting than the river walk itself.
Kids spend their time beside the water, as well as generally running around.

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It's nearly lunch time, and we set out to find the elusive outlet that's open for food. The only options are some fried food from the Caltex outlet in the town, or try the neighborhood pub. Sadly, even the pub is closed. However someone there gives us directions to a place which maybe open, beside the BP pump at the other end of town.

We find the place eventually. It's run by youngsters and the wait is l-o-o-o-o-o-n-n-g.
Most of the clientele includes long distance truck drivers as well as some local folk.

You realize how different the Country is when compared to the cities. Here, things move at their own relaxed pace.

We wait.
The kids get impatient, however some juice helps calm them.

When the food finally makes its arrival, it's tasty. Maybe the wait helped.

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After we devoured what we had ordered, Graham tanked up the RAV4, and the respective ladies took over the wheel.

We were off to destination Charleville.

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Old 6th January 2016, 18:22   #8
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DAY 3

As we crossed Mitchell, traffic reduced even further. At times it felt as if we were the only ones going anywhere, save for the occasional 4WD which sped in the opposite direction.

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You are soon hard pressed to even spot a 2WD vehicle or a sedan. Almost all vehicles are 4WDs and standing tall among them the Landcruiser 70 series ute, which is reverred in Australia and in particular the outback.

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Signs which indicate road conditions between towns. These roads are susceptible to flooding at times
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The horizon extends into the distance, and you soon begin to realize the scale of things around you.

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We cross Mungallala and Morben, towns which seem to exist for barely a few hundreds of people. It's almost like passing through a ghost town, with hardly anyone being seen. Yet, we must slow down to town limits to avoid being on candid camera with a bill to foot.

We venture on.

Kids find ways to keep themselves busy
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Soon, the soil color changes from a light brown to a brownish red.

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Roadkill is very common now, and you need to start dodging the carcasses strewn across the roads. At times, you see eagles and other scavengers pick their share from the lot. Nature's food cycle at work.

Sometimes, you need to slow down for long lizard-like creatures crossing the highway to avoid contributing to the numbers around you.

Along the desolate stretches of the highway to Charleville, you observe fencing on both sides, so all roadkills seen are despite these barriers. At times you see cattle grazing by the sides within the perimeter of the fences.

Soon we are 3 kms from Charleville, which forms part of the state of Queensland's Outback.

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Old 7th January 2016, 09:07   #9
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Thread moved to the Travelogues section.
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Old 7th January 2016, 16:32   #10
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Mighty impressive photos and commentary.
Waiting for further installments.
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Old 7th January 2016, 17:27   #11
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Brilliant outdoors! And a bright day calls for vivid colours. And they show up nicely. And so do the beasts!
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Old 7th January 2016, 18:20   #12
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We are to stay at the Charleville Waltzing Matilda Motor Inn on Alfred Street.

We observe the old heritage buildings, and its almost as if time has stood still here since the ancient times.

When converted to Black n White. Charleville may looked the same even 50 years ago
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Thankfully, the motor inn is comfortable, and the kids once again want to jump in the pool. The lady running the place is eager to assist, and quickly helps us with extra towels.

Meanwhile, Graham and myself decide to go check options for fresh/hot food, which at the onset seemed a herculean task, as hardly any places were bound to be open with it being a Sunday. As expected, we found nothing. However there was a Puma fuel outlet which had some hot food. Kinda similar to what we had in Mitchell.

Interestingly, we found a petrol station which was run by an Indian. It's amazing to think how an Indian spots such entrepreneurial opportunities in a rather desolate place and yet makes it happen. We found a similar place in Mitchell as well.. again a petrol station. Bought some bread again as options for the following morning and headed home.

With the kids having had their share of fun, we pack em up and head into the town centre to have a look at some of the places.

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We visited the War Memorial as well as the Charleville Historic house, (http://www.charlevillehistorichouse.com.au/) dated back to 1889.
From the website :

Quote:
Charleville's Historic House began life in 1889 as the chambers and manager's residence of the Queensland National Bank.
The Bank used the building as it's chambers for 53 years.

Charleville Historic House

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The V sign on the building has historical significance from the World War victory
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War Memorial
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Parked beside the Charleville Hotel
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Town Hall
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Arguably, the biggest highlight of Charleville is the Observatory which has shows at 8:30 PM on alternate days for star gazing and planet sightings. Sadly for us, we landed in Charleville during the Xmas break, and by the time we got info about the place being closed, we had already made our bookings for accommodation. Anyway, we had to jot this down as a must-do for later, and had to make do with just seeing the place from the outside for now.

Wild kangaroos near the observatory
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On the way back we stopped to view the Vortex guns which as legend goes was used to try and trigger rainfall in the 1920s when the state was facing a severe drought. History says the plan was unsuccessful, but the attempt is preserved in history.

The Vortex Guns
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We head back to the motor inn, where the kids indulge in some board games, while the adults sit and talk.

Dinner comprising Lamb chops and the special of the day, which was an Indian curry tasting like sambar, was prepared based on our orders which we had at the in-house restaurant. It was good, and the hospitality was excellent.

We retired back to our rooms for some chit-chat and resting for the next day ahead.

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Old 7th January 2016, 18:31   #13
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Default Re: Our venture at exploring the Australian Outback

W.O.W.
Isn't Australia just amazing?
The roads are beautiful. Loved the nature pics and specially the hand pump picture

Great to see a very well written and detailed travelogue.
Kudos to the writer. Great job.

P.S.:- just a random question, how many kms did you cover in the entire trip?

Cheers,
Luv.
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Old 7th January 2016, 19:07   #14
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Default Re: Our venture at exploring the Australian Outback

DAY 4

Today the plan was to head towards St George located towards the southern tip of Queensland. To get there, we would need to head back to Mitchell, and then make our way to St George.

Our venture at exploring the Australian Outback-route-map.jpg

Topped up on fuel from Charleville despite the available range on the Pajero showing as 450 kms, much more than what we had to travel to get to Mitchell. When going as a convoy it's always better to do these together so as to avoid time for an extra stop, which when traveling with kids can extend to more than what you may have estimated. Also, Monday was a public holiday owing to Boxing Day falling on a Saturday. For us, it meant that even the few food outlets we would come across in the outback towns would not be open for business.

Being a familiar highway now, progress was quick.
As we were making our way along the highway, a couple of fellow motorists from the opposite direction flashed their headlamps at us. Not knowing the local significance of this gesture, i assumed it was motorists making small talk along the way, saying hi. I flashed the headlamps in return to acknowledge.

As we entered the town of Mungallala (yup, you read it right) along the highway, the speed limit dropped to 50kmph and i adhered.

There was not a single other soul active on the road.

Pottering along the main street of the town, i observed someone standing on the road, and indicating to pull over. Immediately, my travelers instinct kicked in, and i observed the surroundings.

I then looked at the person again, and realized he was a law enforcement official, or Police. Parked on the center median was a Toyota LC70 wagon in police livery.

It then struck me i had been pulled over by the cop. My first time ever in Australia.

I moved over to the side of the road... stopped, then rolled down the window, and greeted the officer.

The officer returned the greeting. He then went on to explain that i would be subjected to a RBT or Random Breath Test, and asked if i had been drinking.
I replied in the negative, and then proceeded to blow into the instrument.

Despite having watched shows like Cops and other local law enforcement shows on TV, and not to forget others getting pulled over before me, i managed a rather lame attempt blowing into the device.

The officer asked me to repeat. Yet again, a feeble and pitiable attempt.
By now, both the officer as well as my family comprising my wife and daughter started laughing. The officer joked and asked me to imagine i was blowing up a balloon till he asked me to stop.

Seeing the laughter all around, i managed it right this time. Heard the beep at which i was asked to stop. The officer checked the reading and seeing the negative indicator, bade as well on our journey ahead.

I thanked him, wished a good day and pulled over a bit ahead, waiting for Graham's round who was now right behind us. Graham who is a veteran at these things got it right the first time, and we moved on.

During one of our stops later, when i mentioned about the other motorists flashing their headlamps at us, Graham explained how the single flash of the headlamps is a motorists code indicating police presence up ahead. Needless to say, i was to come across this practice more often as i ventured into other areas during my journeys in Australia.

Last edited by benbsb29 : 7th January 2016 at 19:09.
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Old 8th January 2016, 07:22   #15
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Default Re: Our venture at exploring the Australian Outback

Ahh! The serene outback. It's always been a dream to visit the outback and camp there. Your travelogue rekindles those dreams through the excellent narration and the colourful pictures. The roads, the cleanliness and just the general sense of seeing so few people on the street's is a refreshing change early in the morning. This made my day mate.
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