Now that the end of the trip is in sight, I'm realizing that I don't have as much time as I'd hoped. I booked a campsite on an island in the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland for next week, and after that, I have about ten days before I give Princess a bath and put her to bed.
The trouble is, Google Maps informs me that the drive between coastal Queensland and Darwin, where Princess is due, is a punishing four days through blank Outback.
I thought hard about changing things up. From where I'm staying in Canberra (motto: "It's not that bad. Come on, it's not!"), I was going to make a beeline to Queensland, and then drift back down the Sunshine Coast to end the trip in Sydney. I'd have to miss the Outback and the far north, but I'd give myself much more time to enjoy the journey. I wrote out a blog post that had a map and everything.
Then I called the rental agency. It turns out Princess has a very important date with her next suitor, and he's picking her up in Darwin. Darwin is right near Kakadu National Park, a massively popular 4WD destination, and it's the big Easter holiday weekend, so changing her plans is a no-go.
So I guess I'm driving to Darwin. I'm trying to look on the bright side--I'll see the Outback! I'll cross into the Tropics! I'll visit every state on the mainland! The Northern Territory has no speed limit! I'm going to Kakadu, too! --but four days of un-scenic driving is big chunk out of a trip that only has a few weeks left.
The other bad news is that I have to sacrifice at least one must-see to make it from here to Queensland to Darwin on time. I'll miss either the dunes and dingo-habitat of Fraser Island, or I'll miss Sydney. While I feel ridiculous having come all this way only to miss the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge, I'm leaning toward bypassing Sydney, or at least making only a whirlwind stop. I feel like I may have seen the best of urban Australia in Melbourne, and the north-eastern coast is rumored to be foreign and intriguing in a way that Australian cities, as charming as they are, simply are not.
Tomorrow morning, I'm getting up early and ditching Canberra (motto: "The city that's all suburbs and no city!") to drive to Sydney. It's a short hop (for Australia). Once there, I'll make a game-time decision whether to enjoy one more night in a city, or head out after afternoon tea to make the northern beaches in good time. Given the hard travel of the next two weeks, you may not know which I chose until I get back!