Driving The Nullarbor Plain
Crossing the Nullarbor in the 1950s and earlier via the Eyre Highway was a journey in which drivers literally took their life into their hands. Most of the road back then was at best an unsealed dirt track and roadhouses were few and far bewteen. Significant improvements were made to the highway in the 1960s and the WA Government had sealed the its sector right up to the SA border by the late 1960s. The last section of road to be sealed - around 200 kms of highway up to the state border on the South Australian side - was opened in July 1976. Today, the surface is sealed all the way, the road is wide and the longest stretch between roadhouses (fuel, food and accommodation) is 191 km. There is plenty of traffic on the road so if you need help or assistance, it's a short wait until the next vehicle comes along.
You don't need a four wheel drive vehicle, the average family sedan will handle the trip with ease provided it has good tyres, is in good roadworthy condition and you don't push it beyond its capabilities. Service stations at many roadhouses are equipped to handle running repairs to vehicles, though you may experience delays of up to 5 days if parts have to be brought in by truck from Perth or Adelaide.
If you are contemplating a drive across the Nullarbor, there are a number of things you need to consider in the planning stages. The first is the time factor. If you are in a hurry and want to get to the other side of the continent as fast as you can, give serious consideration to leaving your car at home and flying (5 hours between Perth and the eastern seaboard) or taking the train (3 days between Perth and the eastern seaboard). Driving at night between dusk and dawn is dangerous, even if you are sharing the driving among a number of people. This warning is not given just because of the dangers of driver fatigue; it is at dusk and dawn in particular that animals are up and about and stray onto the road. If you hit a camel, a wombat or a kangaroo, you can do serious damage to your vehicle, as well as cause serious injury or even death to yourself and your passengers.
The idea that it is a boring trip so you need to get it over and done quickly is a fallacy. Yes, stretches of the drive can be monotonous, but it is much less boring if you take time to stop, stretch your legs and look at the things that are available to look at on the way. This breaks the monotony of a long drive and makes the trip feel as though it has been worthwhile when you reach your destination.
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