Many of us are about to head off travelling this year after last year's somewhat disrupted or non-existent travel. And, as we head deeper into 2021 and snap closures are still happening in different states at random, we’re all probably realising that this is the way it’s going to be in the near future.
We actually got caught in Victoria’s last lockdown while travelling in the Victorian Alps east of Omeo. At the time, we were camped at one of our favourite campsites when we heard the news from a couple of other travellers that a lockdown was due to start that evening.
With not much choice for a re-supply, we headed to the nearest town and bought some essentials and then headed for the bush again, finding a pleasant little spot south of Bendoc to pull the camper up for the five-day lockdown. And our enforced stay wasn’t any great drama apart from the pub in Bendoc being closed.
But it was another lesson in having to be flexible when you travel. And with COVID-19 rearing its ugly head from time to time and state premiers wielding their power, it seems we’ll have to be even more flexible in the year to come.
Then there was the trip I just returned from where we had planned a double crossing of the Simpson Desert. While we managed to get across from Birdsville to Mt Dare, rain closed the desert and a host of tracks soon afterwards. We were left planning a magical mystery tour where we didn’t know from one day to the next where we’d be, and while we spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone, we ended up having a lot of fun.
Now, take this next trip we’ve been planning. When we first had the idea, we thought the COVID-19 issue would be settled by May this year and the borders opened. But that wasn’t the case and while the Western Australia state border has finally opened, most of the Indigenous lands in the state remained firmly shut to travellers, thereby excluding all those great remote roads that we love to travel on. The only exception was the Anne Beadell which, for some reason, opened with the border.
Another plan was called for so we sat down with a map and planned a route that included the Anne Beadell and some remote pastoral country of WA, the intention being to travel from the south coast near Ceduna to the north coast around Broome. To make it a bit more interesting, we rang a few property owners and organised to travel across their vast station holdings and once again that was a bit hit and miss, requiring a near constant change of plans as we got permission from one property and not the next.
Then, just as we had our travelling blueprint finalised, word came through that the Aboriginal lands were opening up and we could travel the Connie Sue, Gunbarrel and Gary Highway with no issues.
“You bloody beauty!’” we thought. So, it was back to Plan A with a few exceptions, because the WA parks authority had not opened Rudall River NP, one of our initial destinations; we could easily bypass that though and still have a cracker of a trip.
Then, in a real shock and only a week out from leaving, we got word that the Anne Beadell was to be closed on the South Australian side for the time we were going through because of an important cultural ceremony and the community we had organised to get fuel from was going to be closed too.
It was back to the drawing board again as we shifted our route and timings once more. Now, a day before we leave, we have a plan but experience tells us we need to be prepared for any eventuality that could see roads or tracks closed and communities, even states, shut down.
We’ve got all our permits and our state border passes, our camping permits for a national park we want to stay in after our desert jaunt has been booked and paid for, and the vehicle and camper are packed and we are ready to roll. But who knows where we’ll end up?
Of course, COVID-19 and flooded roads aren’t the only thing that can cause a change of plans. Not so long ago, we broke down with a shredded serpentine belt crippling the Cruiser. After a recovery and an enforced stay in a town we had no intention of travelling to, our travels recommenced with only our wallet a little worse off than before.
I’ve always said to Viv that you need to be flexible when you’re travelling and this year it’s more important than ever. Make sure your travel plans have a bit of flexibility about them as well. And enjoy wherever you end up!