australia, queensland, travel

I Ran Out of Petrol on Bruce Highway

November 30, 2018

When I decided to road trip from Melbourne to Cairns for six weeks, I anticipated a few car troubles. I did not expect a kangaroo to jump out at me on Princes highway. I did not expect to drive through a waterfall to get to Belmore Falls but running out of petrol on the highway, yeah I kinda expected this one. Still, it isn’t pleasant, is it?

It all started a few days earlier when I left Rainbow Beach and began by long journey towards Airlie Beach. I broke up the journey by visiting the town of 1770 on the first morning with intention of driving to Rockhampton in the evening so I could nip into the shopping centre to buy a GoPro the next morning. This didn’t exactly go to plan.I wandered around the town of 1770 for about an hour in the morning before I got a bit of a headache. I’m prone to migraines but they’re never usually so bad I can hardly see. When I got back to my car and started driving, I realised it probably wasn’t safe for me to drive so I stopped in a nearby town at around 7pm, as the sun was setting. I managed to keep my eyes open long enough to see a large colony of bats flying overhead and then I collapsed in the back of my camper, a three hour drive away from Rockhampton.

Because of my early night, I awoke with the sun the next day with my headache cured. Yay! I set off at around 6am after nipping in a petrol station to stock up on a variety of juices to keep me hydrated so I don’t get another headache. The one thing I didn’t stock up on? Petrol. Why not? Because it was one of the most expensive petrol stops I’d seen and I still had a three quarter tank.

I’d gotten used to these long car rides now and enjoyed listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks as company. I reached Rockhampton a quarter of an hour before the camera shop opened which meant I was the first in the door to buy a GoPro – an essential as I would be snorkelling in the Whitsundays the next day.

I ended up staying in the Rockhampton Mall for a bit. I bought a new book and charged my camera with the only outlet I could find – the one in the ladies toilet. Yep, I spent an hour in the ladies toilet by the hand dryer reading ‘One of Us is Lying’ charging my camera. I know this is weird, but I must have wasted an entire hour walking around the whole mall looking for another appropriate power outlet. I even bought a coffee in a coffee shop with the hope they’ll have one there to no avail. Usually in this case, I’d go to a library but none of the libraries in Rockhampton were open on this particular day for some reason.

Anyway, it was almost mid day and I still had six hours of driving to do. I planned on stopping midway in Mackay to stretch my legs and see whatever Mackay had to offer, but this didn’t end up going to plan, either.

As I left Rockhampton, I kept my eyes peeled for cheap petrol stops as I had about a third of a tank left, which I thought was acceptable, but as I hit Bruce Highway again, I realised I made a mistake.

This part of Bruce Highway was unlike any other part I’d seen. There was nothing on either side of the road for miles and occasionally a cryptic sign that read something like ‘Are we there yet? No, son. Nowhere near’ would appear. For the first time on this road trip, I really was in the middle of nowhere and I had reached a quarter tank full of petrol.

I continued on, figuring there must be a petrol stop soon. Half a quarter tank left, a quarter of a quarter tank left, the little arrow dipped lower than zero tank left and I knew I was in trouble but my feisty little camper carried on as if there was no problem. There wasn’t much else I could do except drive and hope there would be sign with a petrol tank on it soon.

To my surprise, there actually was! I pulled in immediately to a building that boasted selling the only diesel for 100km. But no petrol. Annoyed, I carried on and just about the time when Harry Potter reached the portkey to the Riddle graveyard and a well-loved good-looking Hufflepuff character would reach the end of his life, my petrol reached the end of it’s life. My camper van lost speed. I turned onto the side of the road as my car slowed down to a halt.

Luckily, my phone is kept fully charged for times like these. I looked up where I was on Google Maps. I ended up being in the exact spot where Bruce’s highway is closest to the sea between Mackay and Rockhampton, near a town called Clairview. I Googled what to do then phoned a company who said they’d have someone out to rescue me within an hour and it might cost up to $300 for the service. About an hour later they called again to say all their men were up in Mackay and couldn’t help me. I’ll have to try another roadside service.

I called the number the lady suggested I ring. It was to a company that looks after Queensland vehicles to rescue stranded vehicles in the state of Queensland. They have this service all over Australia for different states. I explained that I didn’t have insurance because I was driving a rental car and they said, if I got the car in Victoria, I should contact the Victorian version of their company.

So I phoned the Victorian version of their company. At first, they agreed to help but getting a car out there to reach me would take several days. However, upon investigation, my rental company wasn’t insured with the state of Victoria, so I would need to find out which state they are insured with and contact them.

I called my rental company, who were closed because it was a Sunday but the automatic voicemail gave me a number to ring in case of an emergency so I called them. It ended up being the same roadside assistance company but for Western Australia instead. I couldn’t believe it. If it took days for a car to reach me from Victoria, it might take weeks for someone to reach me from Western Australia. I considered packing it all in and hitching a ride to and from the nearest petrol station from a passing car.

Luckily the lady who answered the phone was from England too. We bonded over this and she explained that I needed to ring the Queensland number if I’m stuck in Queensland as someone from Western Australia couldn’t possibly reach me where I am. I explained what they told me, and how I needed to find whichever state I was insured with. She found my rental company on their system and exactly ten minutes later, a man pulled up by my car with a bucket full of petrol to save the day.

The whole experience only ended up costing $20 for the petrol, as it was just enough for me to drive ten minutes up the road to Carmila. $20 for the whole experience wasn’t bad at all and the man with the bucket of petrol taught me a valuable life lesson. When driving in Australia, stock up on petrol as soon as you reach the half-way point. Turns out I had passed the nearest petrol station 80km down the road and I had passed it up because it was too expensive, thinking a cheaper option would be right around the corner. Nope. Not in Australia.

I decided this was good enough of a break from driving and I didn’t stop for a break in Mackay when I reached it. I powered through all the way to Airlie Beach, making this my longest driving day ever. Little did I know, I’d be unable to drive for the next four days and I’d end up literally stuck in paradise.

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