With little time to recover from our Kakadu trip, and from a few well deserved glasses of wine in Darwin (which it must be said – is not a place I’d rush back to), 6.30am arrived so it was time to hit the road and get into the outback.
Our new tour guide made no secret of the fact that this part of the tour was going to be predominantly driving, as we had a LOT of ground to cover down the Stuart highway to Alice Springs. Seated up at the front of the bus for prime viewing of miles and miles of outback, singing along to 90s music and having some of the most random conversations to pass the time, it was surprising how quickly the journey passed by!
After a quick supplies stop (where we also visited a stuffed buffalo from Crocodile Dundee…) it was amazing how quickly we left civilisation behind.
Our main activity for day one was an afternoon of canoeing through Katherine Gorge, an incredibly beautiful place. To start with, we were taken to the canoes by a larger boat, as the first stretch of water had too many crocodiles deeming it unsafe to canoe… and they weren’t lying. After we reached the canoes, we were simply pushed off into the water with little instruction of where to go, and more importantly, how to deal with any crocodiles! Even with a long swim stop, and a lot of time tanning, 4 hours was far longer than needed for this activity, and a group of us ended up linking together in the hope we would float back to the start! (Unfortunately most of the photos were on a go pro so I don’t have many shots of this!)
Weary from the day, we headed off to our camp for the night, where we would have our first experience of sleeping out in swags (not as prestigious as it may sound!). I was dubious about this, as everyone knows Australia has most of the worlds most dangerous creatures, but I was assured it was too cold for snakes… I had to admit though when the swags were lined around the camp fire, it became rather cosy, and it was nice for us all to be sharing the experience together. Aside from one boy waking up with a wallaby in his face, we survived the night in one piece, and it was actually a far better sleep than in the disgusting Darwin hostel!
Unsurprisingly, it was an early start the next day, but only a very short drive to some natural thermal hot springs!! Unlike the last time I was fooled into getting into ice cold water, this time the water was incredibly warm, and definitely how every day should start.
From here, much more outback followed, until we reached the Daly Waters Pub. This was one of my favourite stops – a pub in completely the middle of nowhere, with only a handful of other buildings around, and so quiet a game of ten pin bowling commenced in the middle of the road. The inside of the pub is completely full with the most random things left by people who have passed through – it would take days to look through everything that was up there! After a couple of cold ciders in the pool, we left our mark as well. A rogue one dollar bill has somehow made its way around the world with me since my last US trip in 2012, but a wise Australian lady told me to make a fresh start, and let it go. So if you ever find yourself in the middle of Australia Hex, do see if you can find it!
Before reaching the nights camp our supplies stop featured something a little different this time – snakes!! (Very Britney would you say?!)
The campsite in Banka Banka was one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever seen. Although we just missed sunset, climbing up the small hill to see the sign demonstrating exactly how far away we were from everything, really hit home how far into the outback we had come. If you ever feel the need to escape the world for a while – this is the place to come. A great last evening with this tour, eating, drinking, playing games, and talking for hours around the fire, before settling into our swags. It actually rained in the middle of the night – and I couldn’t have been happier – turns out my sleeping bag is INCREDIBLY warm!
Next stop – Alice Springs! But not before seeing a few more weird places first. Devils Marbles was exceptional – huge boulders in the middle of the outback. This brought out our inner child as we had a little too much fun clambering over the rocks. Such fun!
Close to here was Wycliffe Wells; the home of the highest number of UFO sightings in Australia – who of course believe the Devils Marbles are connected to some sort of extra-terrestrial activity. It was very interesting reading the many, many articles of weird occurrences and sightings posted around the walls. There’s certainly something weird about that place whether it’s aliens or not! But we did also have fun posing with the aliens outside.
Our last stop for lunch was a little disconcerting – Barrow Creek, ie, WOLF CREEK. For those who haven’t seen the movie, probably don’t watch it if you’re scared of being tortured by a crazy man in the outback, but the movie is loosely based on a true story, which occurred here. A grim, isolated place, but the man who owned the pub was an absolute delight! (Of course in Australia you can be in the middle of nowhere but there will always still be a pub!). He again had a weird and wonderful assortment of items from people who had stopped by, funnily enough a Huddersfield Town shirt included! I’m not sure why someone would have left such a wonderful shirt behind, but I left my mark on it nonetheless.
After a few more hours of outback we made it – Alice Springs! Here I would have a day of rest, before leaving my Way Outback tour group to continue my journey with a different company – Groovy Grape. Luckily I would be staying with the lovely Amy, and although we were a bit hesitant about gaining a different tour family, it turned out we had nothing to worry about…
To be continued…
With kindest regards,
Outback Peps xoxo
What are the weirdest places you’ve been to in Australia?!