I told myself to always be prepared, to be overly cautious and to never fall below half a tank of gas, and I still almost ran out of gas in the Australian Outback. The distances between destinations are just so far with so little between stops. In fact, some of the towns that are along the Stuart Highway are on government-owned land and exist specifically so people have a place to fuel up. On my way back from the center of the Outback, I passed the Northern Territory – South Australia border and decided I would just get gas in the next town. I had about a third of a tank, and I assumed it would be no sweat to get to the next stop. I was very wrong.
The next stop ended up being 158 km (98 miles) away. I think the rental car I was driving had one of those fake-out gas gauges too. You know the type. It will sit on ‘Full’ for a long time, but then once it hits that halfway point, it pretty much goes straight to ‘Empty.’ I drove for what seemed like forever with the gas gauge on empty, and all I could think of was this. The car’s desperate pings and flashing lights became more and more urgent. To make matters worse, it was 41 C (106 F) outside, so it was not the best time to make a big mistake. Despite my stupidity, I did make it to the gas station, and when I filled up it took 59.6 liters. That’s on a 60 liter tank.
If you ever find yourself driving in the Outback, fill up your tank even before it reaches half empty or at least make sure you know how far the next town will be. Lesson learned.