10th May (Fran’s travels in Australia)

This week: Fran’s travels in Australia travelling from Perth to Merredin in West Australia in a new to me 4WD.

10th May (2004) Perth to Merredin, Australia

Day One

This is a trip where I basically only have memories to go on. My total sum of information is sixteen lines in my diary on the first day, seven photos, a packing list, a food shopping list, and five pages of a mini notebook with scribblings mostly about diesel fill ups, managing two tanks, and kilometres driven. I wish there was so much more. 

My new to me car was an old modified Toyota Arkana. It is a rare Toyota model that people seem to have never heard of. This specimen had been changed so that it was bigger, and back in its heyday, more luxurious. It was used to drive Mine Managers in style around Western Australian Mines. Faded grandeur could not be used to describe it, but the engine had been overhauled and technically ready to drive. If you can picture a Toyota Troop Carrier, or Troopy, well, this car was longer, wider and taller. I could stand upright in the rear without stooping over. There were ten forward facing seats in the back. With the seats removed, it would be perfect as a camper van for my trip across Africa. I had to get it to Melbourne first, though.

I flew into Perth a few days earlier, picked up the car, and then stayed with friends for a couple of days. It was now time to leave the safety of Perth and drive my new car home. I had five days to drive over 3000 kilometres.

The packing list I found included a doona and pillows. Not sure how I got the doona on the plane. These items would definitely be required though, as the plan was to sleep in the car. The back seat was the full width of the car and I could lie across it with my legs fully stretched, just. Luckily, I’m short. The car’s proportions were perfect for me. So that was my bed. No need for camping gear such as tents for this inaugural trip.

I did a supermarket shop costing $100 and bought some items from Bakers Delight. There is no mention of food for day one, so I’ll assume I ate whatever I had bought from the bakery while it was fresh.

I had been told the car had two 70 litre diesel tanks. I filled both till the pump cut off. This totalled 97.43 litres. I paid $95.38. That means it was around 98 cents per litre. That sounds so cheap now.

I was stocked and ready. I was very nervous. City driving would be the hardest to navigate. I had never driven in Perth before. I did not know the city well. And I was driving a car I did not know well, including it being a manual, or stick, which I had only driven once since passing my manual driving test in London in 1998.

I had photocopied multiple pages of a Perth Street Directory that was available to look at, but not borrow from, my local library. This was all I would have to guide me out of the city and onto Highway 94, the Great Eastern Highway. No GPS. No phone navigation. No navigator in the passenger seat. A few photocopied pages with a highlighted route and me. 

I left about 1.30 p.m. so only managed 264 kilometres. I spent the night in a campground directly off the highway on the edge of the town of Merredin, paying $12 to park my car for the night and use the bathroom facilities.

I don’t know exactly what time I stopped driving but my only diary entry for this trip was written at 7.30pm. Here I am in Merredin. My first night in the car. It’s so cool. All the lights work etc. and plenty of space. I love it. I probably should have parked up sooner, but at least I’m in a proper caravan park here and I’ve had a shower and all I need. I drove in the dark, but it was fine. No kangaroos yet, so I was lucky. Only did 264 km today. Hoping for a much better day tomorrow mileage-wise, but at least it’s better than still being in Perth and leaving tomorrow. The car drives perfectly. No problems at all except maybe oil. There’s a gauge in the car and not sure if that means how much oil there is or temperature, but will buy some oil just in case in Coolgardie, or next petrol stop, so I can top it up if need to. I’m tired. So early to bed tonight and up with the sun to start the day.

Not exactly sure what the oil gauge comments were about. Did I have any idea what I was doing? Probably not. 

I would be guaranteed to be up with the sun, as I had no window coverings to block out the light. I moved everything I had to the space between the back two rows. This created an extra wide bed space for at least my feet or knees to settle on if I curled up. Obviously, this was at its most basic set up, but it was still pretty good. And much easier than putting a tent up.

I text my flatmate to let her know where I was, and that I was okay, like I’d promised I would. If I did that every night, then at least they would have a location to look for me if I disappeared along the way. This was my first trip with a mobile phone. Travel was changing.

My Toyota Arkana
Rough around the edges, but spacious
10th May (Fran's travels in Australia)
Old school dash

1 thought on “10th May (Fran’s travels in Australia)”

  1. This is awesome. Always loved your travel adventures. Omg I want to hear about your travels in Africa ? this btw is Joanne, Zacs mum from nicu 2016 room 16-21

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