Postcard from the Road to Darwin

Somewhere in the Outback…

It’s 955 miles from Adelaide in the south to Alice Springs in the Red Centre and another 930 to Darwin in the Top End, a total of 1,885 miles. By comparison, it’s 1,760 miles from the Mexican border in Brownsville, Texas to the Canadian border in North Dakota. It’s a long way, but that’s where the comparison ends. The vast area known as the Outback has one of the lowest population densities in the world with only 775,000 people living in an area that covers about 2/3 of the continental U.S.

So, there isn’t much out there, just vast areas of arid terrain interspersed with stretches of brush (or bush in Aussie), the infrequent roadhouse or cattle station, and a few small towns like Tennant Creek or a ghost town like New Castle Waters. You might see four or five other vehicles in an hour of driving.

At the New Castle Waters ghost town.

Suddenly, the terrain changes and you pass through an interesting geological formation like Devils Marbles. We would love to get out and do a hike, but it is well over 100 degrees. The hike is a short one with big hats and bottles of cold water.

Here are a few photos from Alice Springs to Darwin and the long road in between.

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This is Sovy

Sovy – KC Sovereign Deluxe motorhome on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis.
Yulara (Uluru) overflow camping area, Northern Territory.

Many of you know that we are full-time RVrs who live and travel in a 41 foot motorhome that is affectionately named “The Dip”. Every couple of years, we park The Dip and go traveling without her, flying somewhere to travel through a foreign countryside.

Darwin, Northern Territory.

This trip, however, is different. We picked up a small motorhome in Adelaide and are now half way through a 4,500 mile trip north through the center of the country and then south down the west coast.

Looking towards the front.

So, meet Sovy, a KC Sovereign Deluxe motorhome/Mercedes Sprinter 2.2L Turbo Diesel. Sovy is 20-1/2 feet long, half as long as The Dip, and a foot narrower at 7-1/2 feet. However, The Dip has four slide-outs and is 12-1/2 feet wide when extended and Sovy has none…. After two and a half weeks in Sovy, we are still occasionally bumping into each other, but for the most part we are doing okay.

Looking towards the back.

We’ve talked about coming off the road into a permanent living arrangement and were wondering if we would like traveling in a smaller rig. We have found that there are advantages in drive-ability and maneuverability, especially because we are not towing a car. The lack of space is still in question!

The all-in-one shower and toilet room!

And, some things are quite different. Obviously, it is a right-hand drive. So everything is reversed. The door is on the left instead of the right and all of the utilities are on the right side instead of the left. The gray water hose is about one inch in diameter and RV parks are okay if you just dump it in the hedge next to you. However, the toilet is a cassette unit that has to be removed by hand and dumped at in a black water receptacle. I dumped it in a toilet today….

Pulling the black water cassette for dumping.

The adventure continues as we pull out tomorrow and head down the west coast toward Perth.

Looking for a geocache near Woomera, South Australia.
Enjoying the sunset on Uluru, Northern Territory.
Campsite at Kings Creek Station, Northern Territory.
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Postcard From The Northern Territory

Headed north on the Stewart Highway, Northern Territory

There’s several ways to get to Darwin in the Northern Territory, but only one direct route by road – straight up the Stewart Highway from Adelaide to Alice Springs, to Darwin. This is the heart of our travel – a road trip that keeps us close to the ground where we get to meet people and learn about how they live.

The Barrow Creek Hotel (pub) and roadhouse.

It’s 1,100 miles from the border with South Australia to Darwin, through a sparsely populated countryside with small towns and cattle stations (ranches) scattered across the 522,000 square miles of the Northern Territory.

Rod at the Larrimah Pink Panther Hotel where the bull shit is free….

There are long distances between fuel stops and you’re not absolutely sure that there’s going to be fuel at the next roadhouse, though there usually is. And it’s hot out here, but the funky little roadhouses offer a place where you can stretch your legs, fuel up, get a cold drink, and enjoy the character(s!). Many are old historic bars where drovers and sheep shearers stopped for a cold one before moving on down the road.

Daly Waters Pub.
A giant sculpture next to the Aileron roadhouse.
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Postcard from Kings Canyon – Watarrka National Park

Along the trail in Kings Canyon, Northern Territory

Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park is regarded as one of the most spectacular sights in central Australia. Hiking is the only way to see or experience the canyon as there are no roads along the rim or drives into the canyon itself. Due to the heat, we chose to do a couple of inner-canyon hikes to see the sights. The trails took us along dry stream beds as we walked into the gorge.

According to aboriginal dream-time lore, the ripple rock is a sign that the carpet python spirit-being rested here. The carpet python is one of the spirit beings that shaped the landscape.
Water is a scarce commodity in this dry landscape.
The spring at the end of the Kathleen Springs Walk, Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory

Cultural experiences have become very important to us. After all, these landscapes were inhabited by aboriginal people for 10’s of thousands of years before a white person saw them. They formed a complex culture with lore which regulated human behavior and connected people with the land and with each other.

Our Karrke guide demonstrates the grinding of seeds in the manner that has been passed down for thousands of years.

We spent part of an afternoon at Karrke, an Aboriginal Cultural Experience and Tour. Our guide Christine, and her partner Peter, have built this small business as a means of supporting their aboriginal community of 20 people.

Witchetty grub, a favorite bush tucker (food). When cooked in hot coals it tasted like buttered popcorn.

They told us about the culture and lore of their people, the Luritja and Pertame, and about bush medicines, bush tucker (food), art work, tool making, and much more.

Bush seeds used for jewelry.
Wild horse (non-indigenous)
Australian Ring Neck.

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Postcard – Our Friends in Oz

Australians are a very nice people. Sure, you will always find exceptions, but for the most part they are warm and welcoming. So, how could we start this epic journey without visiting our Australian friends?

We could have started this trip by flying into Adelaide, picking up the little motorhome, and hitting the road. After all, we had planned a very long driving trip through the Outback from Adelaide north to Darwin and then south to Perth, a total of 4,700 miles….  

Michelle, Mick, Mum, sister Melinda, and the girls took a day out of their busy lives to give us a tour of the sights around Wollongong and Bulli where they live. Wollongong is a city on the ocean about an hour train ride south of Sydney. It was a wonderful day of touring, talking, food, and even a couple geocaches. Thank you all so much.

Michelle and her family on the water in Gerroa, New South Wales

Melbourne is a short flight from Sydney and our friends Sean and Anne have a beautiful inn – Stone & Straw – near Daylesford, a resort town north of Melbourne. Again, it was so nice to get reacquainted, talk, share food, and tour their hometown. And we got to stay in their finest suite! Thank you so much.

Sean & Anne and us in Castlemaine, Victoria

We’ve known these Australian friends for twelve years and while we live a long way apart, it is an enduring friendship.

Then there are the new Australian friends, Garry and Deb. We met them at a geocaching event that we held one evening in Alice Springs. Garry and Deb invited us to go geocaching with them, so we spent the better part of the next day finding caches and seeing some of the lesser known sights around Alice Springs. Thank you both so much.

Garry & Deb (and their geocache-mobile), Alice Springs, Northern Territory

Sometimes the journey is all about the people you meet along the way.

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Postcard from Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park

Uluru (Ayers Rock)

The National Park encompasses both Uluru and Kata Tjuta (Ayers Rock and the Olgas), significant rock formations that are geologically different yet are only about 18 miles apart. They are geologically interesting, but the true significance is how sacred these places are to the Aboriginal people.

Ancient aboriginal pictographs
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

It’s spring break here for children in several of the Australian states and families are on the move. Our Australian friends warned us that it might be a little crazy. They were right. In addition, the National Park will permanently close access to climb Uluru on October 26th. So, it is even more crazy. The park and its campground are flooded with hundreds of people from all walks of life and nearly every nationality. Everyone wants to climb Uluru before it closes. Out of respect for the wishes of the Aboriginal people, we will not climb it. Besides, there are way too many people on the dangerous slick route up The Rock.

All these people make it a little harder to do just about everything, but still, we have found ourselves in some special moments listening to an aboriginal elder share the sights and wonders he holds dear and on a Ranger lead walking tour about the ancestry and environment.

Ranger Justin

We’ve found special places and times to just sit, close our eyes, take a breath, and listen to the Rock and feel its spirit. Enjoy the photos; they tell the journey we’ve had despite the crowds.

Uluru at sunset
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Postcard from the Outback – South Australia

We spent a little time in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide and now we are in the Outback. Beside visiting friends, the Outback and its unique sights is why we are here. We’ve been in similar places. You know, the road less traveled, the end of the road, and wilderness highways that are “out there”. But we’ve never seen anything like this.

A lot of people have gotten lost and perished out here before there were GPS devices, mobile phones, maps, and a paved road. Now it’s a simple matter of following the road north from Adelaide to Darwin, a mere 1,900 miles (3,000 Km). And while there is a lot of empty nothing out here, there always seems to be something interesting around the next bend in this very straight road.

So, here are a few photos from those interesting sights and places like Woomera, Hart Lake, Coober Pedy, and our first stop in the Northern Territories – Kulgara.

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