Book Excerpt: Perth, Australia

Look inside the book This All Encompassing Trip. Here is an excerpt from page 369 to 371 from chapter 44 – The Aussie Touring Van

chapter 44: The aussie touring van

November 25, 2006 » Show 61
Perth, Australia

…..“This is better,” Mick excitedly explains.

“Okay, wake me up when we get to Perth,” Newfie Joe instructs, as he prepares for hibernation.

The drive from the passenger seat is almost as exciting as from the driver’s, but at least I can stare aimlessly out my window into this excitement and not worry about controlling the wheel. There’s something about watching landscape pass by continuously through a window that’s relaxing and soothing. Time doesn’t even become a factor anymore because the more you look at it the slower it seems to be moving, so you might as well forget about keeping track. With the clock neglected, time begins to fly and before we know it we have reached Kimba, halfway across Australia with a sign to prove it as well. Being only on the road for five hours, we’re making great time and ahead of schedule.

We stop for a stretch and a photo opportunity with the extravagant sign that consists of a map of the country, showing Kimba in the middle and a whole lot of nothing between Kimba and Perth. The title “Halfway across Australia” sits atop of the map, with some additional information listed along the side. Here we discover that the name for one of the world’s most unique tracks of unspoiled wilderness, the Nullarbor Plain, does not originate from the aboriginal language as most, including us, would think. Instead, it’s derived from the Latin words Nullus Arbor, meaning no tree. It’s also the world’s largest single piece of limestone, with an area close to 200,000 square kilometres stretching over 1000km wide. Looking at the side of the road, a sign tells us that Perth is 2280km away. The prospects of driving through this dry part of the country have only become more enticing. Once everyone is seemingly ready to leave, we pile back into the van with Mick taking over driving duties.

“Uh, where’s Ivan?” Clayton asks, as the engine is started.

Pearl Jam Aussie Touring Van to Perth

We look around and he’s nowhere to be seen. He finally appears, emerging from behind a bush where he was relieving himself, and begins to take photos. We shout out encouragements for him to return to the van, so he comes rushing backing claiming he didn’t have enough time to take photos. Nonetheless, we pull into the gas station across the street to fill up, waiting for Ivan to accompany us. Once he jumps back in the van, we take off.
With Clayton, the little one, taking shotgun position next to Mick, the big one, Julian and I take a much needed break and join the back seat party. What I find in the back is a comfortable ride, resting on a three inch thick mattress over top of wooden compartments. The music from the front speakers travels to the back, but it’s somewhat faint. Newfie Joe is reading a newspaper and Julian is reading a book. This, along with some Mexican magazines that Ivan brought, is the only reading material we have onboard. While Ivan is playing with his camera, I fall onto my back, feeling defeated by the heat which rivals the drive to Washington DC in May. The outside air temperature is moderate, but inside it’s like an oven. The heat is soon victorious and I pass out.

As I wake up three hours later, there’s a sense of urgency going around. Our gas tank is running low because there hasn’t been a gas station since Kimba. From my calculations prior to the trip, I figured that the van could do roughly 300km on a full tank, right now we’re at 305km and the light has been on for the last 10km already. The next town is coming up, but we might not make it. This has been our biggest fear; breaking down in the middle of the desert with no one around, which wouldn’t be fun at all. Fortunately, the frantic moment comes to a close 315km after Kimba, as we find a gas station entering the town of Ceduna. We’ve been pushing the speed a little bit trying to make good time and, thus, the van has been less fuel-efficient. So a collective decision is made for us to drive at a slower speed, closer to the speed limit of 110km/hr. This will give us better gas mileage and reduce the chances of the van running out of gas. Knowing the driving limits will also help. “I reckon I could have gotten another 20km,” Mick advises. “So that would be 330km on a full tank.”

“Wait, Ivan’s not here.” Newfie Joe advises, as we’re about to leave.

“Where the fuck is Ivan?” I ask.

A few minutes later, Ivan returns from the washroom, he was the only one to vacate the van. In Ceduna, we see the ocean for the first time in seven hours. Who would’ve thought that we would be in Australia and be away from the ocean for that length of time? The pleasant sight is alluring, so we park the van and walk down the pier. Situated nearly 2000km from Perth, Ceduna would seem like a fishing village, but there’s little evidence to prove this. It seems like a nice town though. Before leaving, we hit the grocery store along with a drive- through beer store to load up on supplies. It’s just past 3:00pm, so we decide to make a stop at an upcoming surf beach for lunch. Cactus Beach takes us half an hour off the A1 freeway but, having driven over 10 hours consecutively, we’re in need of a lunch break. The beers, however, are already distributed throughout the van before we leave town.

The detour takes us around Blue Lake, which is clear and still enough to reflect the blue skies above, and then through a vast set of white sand dunes. It’s a refreshing sight to say the least. A sign is spotted up ahead, with the name Cactus Beach scribbled over top of its former name of Point Sinclair. Following the arrow, we drive past a campsite and arrive at the parking lot of this remote surf beach, which is known to have some of the best breaks in the country. We gather together our sandwich supplies and a couple of beers each from the cooler, or esky as the Aussies call it, and make our way down to the ocean. Walking along the man-made pathway over the rugged terrain that can be inhabited by snakes and scorpions, we approach the lookout deck to find two surfers in the shark-infested water. The waves are medium in size, but constant. It looks like fun.

Continuing down on the dense, fine sand, we fight off the copious amount of flies to allow our feet to dip in the water, where the sand turns into rock. It’s warm but not as warm as the heat in the air, which is only moderate due to the circulating wind. We scale a few of the larger rocks to climb up high above the water for a better view and a place to settle for our picnic, which consists of sandwiches with a heavy dose of ham and a little bit of sand. The afternoon is chilled out, as we spend a good solid hour gazing into the ocean, knowing that the next closest body of land is Antarctica.

“You know, I have to go there one day,” Newfie Joe tells me.

“Antarctica is my ultimate travel dream,” I reply. “Think we can get a van down there?”

Feeling recharged, we return to the van with Ivan arriving there first this time. He asks if he can drive, so we all take turns making fun of Mexican drivers before I hand him the keys. I get back into the passenger seat and get handed a beer. The two cases of Emu Export and Coopers Dark Ales aren’t going to last the night. Re-entering the freeway, we see a sign advising us to watch out for kangaroos and wombats for the next 79km. This could be exciting. But 79km passes by and there has been no sign of life. With everyone wide awake for once, the conversations in the van are at an all time high…..

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Check out some of our images from this spectacular journey through the desolate Nullabar Desert in the Wicked Campers Aussie Touring Van as we make our way to Perth for the final show of the 2006 Pearl Jam Australian tour.

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