4WD couple's warning after '500km mistake' on remote Aussie road

While the detour only cost them about two days and 500 kms worth of fuel, the couple warn a situation can turn life-threatening 'if you make the wrong call'.

A young couple travelling Australia has detailed the moment they realised their major mistake while road-tripping through a "remote" and "deserted" stretch of land about 100 kilometres from the nearest town.

Penny and Bernie, from the Gold Coast, have been travelling the country for ten months, starting in Cape York and taking remote roads across the Top End before following the coast of Western Australia — but never before had they been made to "turn around and make a different plan" after almost becoming stranded.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia from the road, the couple said they left Esperance on WA's south coast travelling east to Cape Arid last month — roughly a two-hour drive. From there they'd made plans to continue east towards Israelite Bay, but heavy rain the night before made them change their plans last minute.

4WD couple pictured in the car (right) and from above on the remote WA road (left)
Conditions left them seriously regretting their decision. Source: TikTok/quarterlifecrisis.travel

"We saw there was an unsealed road that shoots up from Cape Arid to the Balladonia Roadhouse which would take us on to Nullarbor, where we’d planned to go," Penny, 27, explained.

"We have a Hema Maps road book (commonly used for 4WD and off-road travel) that we sometimes look at just to see if there are any little tracks that we can take [instead of the main roads]. It said the unsealed road was 170kms long which for us, wasn't much of a hassle".

"But as soon as we got there, we realised pretty quickly that it's pretty sandy," Bernie, 28, added. "Because of all the rain we had, it was actually like a muddy silt."

Couple fear 'running out of fuel' on 170km sandy road

Video shared on the couple's TikTok page and with Yahoo shows the 170-kilometre-long sandy track ahead of them. But what it doesn't show, according to Bernie, is how muddy and slippery it was, making driving the distance while towing their gear a very tricky task.

"The major concern for us was just running out of fuel, you chew a lot more fuel towing in the sand," Penny explained. With the "huge thunderstorm" the night before "changing the conditions of the track completely" Penny said that played heavily on their mind.

Travel couple pictured at a roadhouse in Nullabor
Despite the eventful detour, the couple did make their destination. Source: Instagram/quarterlifecrisis.travel

Hoping to avoid becoming stranded, the two decided to turn around. However, that too became a challenge when they realised "we couldn't".

Bulldozers had been used to create the track "so on either side of the car was probably a metre and a half mound of dirt," Bernie explained.

"At that point, we thought, 'okay, we're going to have to reverse until we can find somewhere to turn around," Penny chimed in. "We got the drone up purely just to see what was ahead and as you can see in the video, it was pretty much sand for the next however far the eye could see."

Enough gear 'to last a week'

Being used to remote road travel, the couple didn't panic however admitting "if it happened at the start of our trip we might have been a bit concerned".

"We've been some pretty remote places, we've done some tracks that are 500 kilometres single track between fuel stops so 170 kms wasn't anything out of ordinary. It's just the conditions of it," Bernie said.

"We've been bogged plenty of times. But not to that extent where you actually physically have to turn around and make a different plan. I feel like most of the time we've just been able to self-recover, get out and keep going along the same road."

Penny and Bernie were also well stocked with "enough recovery gear" to get them out of a prickly situation should one arise — including a Starlink satellite connection, an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) and enough food and water "to last a week if we got stuck".

"At no point would you say it was a life-threatening situation. But it can easily turn to that if you make the wrong call," Bernie added.

Penny and Bernie pictured with friends on the beach.
The couple share their travel journey on social media. Source: Instagram/quarterlifecrisis.travel

Couple advise 'knowing your conditions' before travelling

The couple managed to reverse two kilometres with their two-and-a-half-tonne load back to the start of the track before heading back in the direction they came from. In total, the detour cost them roughly two days and 500 kilometres in fuel.

"We had to go back to Esperance, fuel up again, restock, and then change plan and go up and around," Penny explained.

Offering advice to future travellers, the 27-year-old said, "know your conditions, know your expertise and your limits, and just make sure you're keeping yourself safe out there".

"I wouldn't say the road's that bad," Bernie added. I think if you had enough fuel, and especially if you're not towing, it wouldn't have been a problem. It's just a combination of the extra weight and the soft sand and the slippery mud and all the rest."

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