At 11:00am, 3 other travelers from my previous tour and I met up with 4 additional individuals for our overnight road trip up to Darwin. Since it was an overnight trip, we had two tour guides, Sheldon and Jerry. Though there were only 8 of us, we had a 48 person bus to ourselves!
Apparently, the drive up to Darwin through the outback can get quite dangerous. Cows on the road at night + a dinky vehicle = major injuries. Our tour guides told us they refused to drive in a little tour van, simply for the hazard it caused. The bus was equipped with a bull bar for such situations. Also, the road trains don’t really like to slow down.
A road train is basically a semi, but with 4-5 cars attached to the back. They’re quite large, and passing them on the road isn’t anything to be taken lightly.
Once everyone was loaded up, we headed out to our first stop, the Tropic of Capricorn. It’s the imaginary line halfway between the equator and the south pole.
I know, hold in your excitement folks, this is as good as it gets! Haha! Needless to stay, it was pretty much a quick stop for a photo opportunity, and on we went!
As we drove, we stopped every few hours to stretch our legs. When you’re out in the outback, those stops tend to be quite interesting. A bar is never just a bar out here, as we quickly found out.
Aileron was our first lesson at this…
Why the lizard in a bikini? I’m not sure… and I’m pretty sure I’ll never know, but there it was.
They also had an eagle that had been quite badly injured. He has since been rehabilitated (and named Bozzo) but has decided simply not to leave. Apparently, dinner here is just to convenient.
Tinned meat comes in all shapes and forms too.
Spam, tinned hotdogs, baked beans, and corn flakes. What more could a girl ask for? Eh hem… As far as finding fresh produce… I’m glad I packed my own!
Our next stop was Barrow Creek and the telegraph station. We were told it’s one of the only 3 remaining in any condition to visit.
It was rather spooky and abandoned looking if you ask me. Not the sort of place you’d like to find yourself wandering alone in late at night…
These telegraph stations used to be of great importance out here though. It was the only means of communication for miles in either direction. If you worked here, you were pretty secluded from the rest of the world.
There was also a little graveyard that I found slightly interesting. There wasn’t much information about it. It simply said that the individuals buried there had been killed by natives.
We also walked into the local bar to check things out.
If you look on the walls, you’ll see money stapled to them with names on them. Apparently, back in the day, when people would make the long journey through the outback, they never knew if they’d have money when they came passing though again. In order to ensure they would be able to afford a drink, they would write their name on a bill and staple it to the wall. That way, they knew they’d have cash. The tradition still continues at this bar.
I found a random photo of Mickey Mouse too!
One thing that I found rather discomforting about this stop was the water. I hadn’t seen anywhere to fill up a water bottle for a while, and I knew I probably should be drinking more water, so I tried the water from the tap. It was clear, so I tried it, and it had an unusual flavor, so I spit it out immediately. Afterwards, I asked one of our tour guides if there was a spot I could fill up on water, and she said there was a cooler under the bus and she’d get it out for me. The bartender thought it was a good time to chip in and said, “Ya! Ya can’t drink the water out here! It’s full of uranium!” What!?
When we got back to the bus I asked our tour guides if he was telling the truth and they both came to the conclusion that he was joking… but they weren’t 100% sure. So all in all, I’m glad I spit it out and always filled up my water from the bus from then on…
Our next stop was Wycliffe Well, and I have to say this was probably the most unusual and unique stop on our tour.
Known as the “Alien Capitol of the World” this place claims hundreds of UFO sightings since WWII, guaranteeing a siting every couple of days.
I’m happy to report that none of us were abducted on this occasion.
Our final sight-seeing stop of the day was Devils Marbles.
This location is known for the granite marble-like stones that were exposed as the sandstone wore away.
This place was avoided by animal herders for years, due to its dark reputation (at least amongst sheep, horses, and goats). Herders were dismayed when they lead their animals through the area and literally thousands of them died.
Eventually they learned that the animals had eaten a poisonous plant that grows here. Devils Marbles indeed.
That was the end of our sight-seeing stops for the day, and it was time to buckle down for the night as we continued our drive.
At about 6:00am the next morning, we reached Katherine Gorge for a sunrise hike. You could definitely feel the weather changing as heat and humidity started to set in.
Our hike was brief, but all uphill and beautiful.
We also learned the difference between a canyon and a gorge. Canyons tend to be in areas composed of sandstone or limestone… something that wears away easily. Gorges are similar, but usually have a river running through them that has caused the erosion and essentially their creation. By this definition, the Grand Canyon should technically be the Grand Gorge… but the terms are often used interchangeably.
As we sat down to breakfast, I was super excited to find a bower bird nest! These guys are such interesting creatures. Here’s David Attenborough to tell you a bit more about them…
Apparently bower birds in this area preferred the color white. I was told bower birds in other parts of Australia are rather partial to the color blue.
If you look closely, you’ll see that the white things he collected are actually largely litter items. I saw straws, soda can tabs, and other plastic bits. Talk about anthropomorphic influence!
Later on I actually saw the bower bird swoop down to his nest, and I did get a photo, but he blends into the background and it’s not very clear.
Our next stop was Leliyn to see Edith Falls, which was a small waterfall where we could swim. I didn’t think there’d be a swimming opportunity, so I didn’t bring my suit and took the opportunity to photograph some of the wildlife instead. There was a kind warning of crocodiles for the swimmers though!
I think the dragonfly might have been a scarlet percher (Diplacodes haematodes). The males are red, while the females are pale yellow in color with brown markings.
I’m still not quite sure what type of lizard this was, so if anyone recognizes it, please tell me!
Our final stop before Darwin was Adelaide River. The Adelaide River Inn, a local pub, is home to a famed movie star… or what remains of him anyway.
Charlie the buffalo from the movie “Crocodile Dundee” was stuffed upon his death and is now a permanent fixture in the bar. He even has his own little corner of merchandise in his honor.
According to the cards they sell, he was born in the Northern Territory in 1970 and passed away on April 24, 2000. His real name was Nick, though he adopted the name of Charlie for the big screen. He has a horn width of 2.25 m, and while he was alive he weighed 1000 kg. For more about Charlie, check out this news article: Crocodile Dundee buffalo to be stuffed
Never thought you’d learn so much about a single buffalo when reading about a trip to the outback, huh?
They also had a creative little toilet seat cover for sale that I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of…
It slightly reminded me of the painting I did in my bathroom at home…
And soon we were off for our last stretch of road. By this point, I was incredibly ready for a shower and proper bed!
We did a little drive through Darwin to give us a feel for the area and were dropped off at our respective locations. I had a 2am flight, and one of the girls that I got to know a bit in our tour group also had an early 1:45am flight, so we booked an airport shuttle together at their tourist/information building.
We wandered around the city for a bit (looking like obvious tourists with all of our luggage) and then chatted and read for a while before heading out to the airport.
I flew back to Melbourne, literally watched the morning train pull out of the station because I didn’t land in time to catch it (bummer!), waited until 2pm to catch the train home (which didn’t stop at Sherwood Station outside of Deakin campus and instead went straight into Warrnambool), and walked a little over an hour to get back to campus. It was an awesome day for transportation I guess!
When I got back to campus, I’ve never been so grateful for a shower, toothbrush, a bit of food, and a nice long nap (all the way into the next morning). I almost never fall asleep early, but this day was quite the exception. (I do have to say though, when I got back from Costa Rica, I was pretty grateful for hot water and a normal shower and to get rid of the sand… It might be a competitor in that department.)
All in all, it was an awesome trip and I would highly recommend it to anyone heading out into the outback for the first time. Our tour guides throughout the trip, Mel, Jerry, and Sheldon, were simply amazing. They had to have been exhausted with all of the driving and activities they did, but they were always cherry and enthusiastic with smiles on their faces! They knew so much about the local landscape, animals, etc. Questions never went unanswered! If you book a trip through Adventure Tours, I’d recommend them!
As a solo traveler, I’ve found I really enjoy traveling with a tour group. You meet lots of interesting people from around the world with so many different backgrounds. You never truly feel like a solo traveler. Besides seeing the sites and stretching your legs, you get to know some great people! I think I’m becoming addicted to traveling…
My next trip now is a weekend jaunt up to The Australia Zoo (also known as Steve Irwin’s zoo). While on the outback trip, I read two books, “The Crocodile Hunter,” written by Steve and Terri Irwin, and “Steve and Me,” by Terri Irwin. It really gave me an appreciation and understanding for what they do and why they do it. Stay tuned for more on that soon! I can’t believe I leave for that trip on Thursday already!