But still there was a lot to do for us in the Outback. Here are some highlights of our journey through the red country:
Stuart Highway (Port Augusta to Darwin):
Following the 2700km long NA87 - Stuart Highway from Port Augusta to Darwin we saw some of the typical Australian features:
- Road trains, trucks with 2 or sometimes 3 trailers reaching a length up to 50m, driving like crazy through the outback (calculate a long time to overtake!! :-) )
- Dingos and Kangaroos crossing your way in the outback especially when it is getting dark.
- Bush-fires on the horizon, which are pretty common during the dry-season. One time the bushfire was next to the street and we had to drive through all the smoke. We could barely see more than 2 meters ahead. That was pretty cool!! :-)
- And at certain places in the outback there are natural pools formed by rivers and even a few thermal pools.To have access to the most of them a 4-wheel-drive jeep is required. Luckily paved roads also leads to a few of them.So we were able to cool down at the thermal pools in Mataranka on a very hot day. (Sounds wired: cool down at thermal pools, haha, but I swear it is the truth!! :-) )
Uluru and Kata Tjuta:
In the middle of the outback there is this one rock, a symbol for Australia and a holy place for the Aborigines. Ayers Rock or Uluru rises 348m out of the ground, in the middle of nothing.
For the natives Uluru is a holy place and for them it is strongly forbidden to climb the rock. They ask all visitors to respect their holy place and not climb Ayers Rock. But still we saw hundreds of tourists hiking up the steep trail, which leads to the top of this holy mountain.
We think that it is really a shame that so much people give a damn to the wish of the Aborigines.
At least we payed respect and hiked the 10.6km long Base Walk around Ayers Rock instead. So we were able to escape the crowds and discover the natural beauty all around Uluru:
Bloodwoods, native grasses, cave paintings, waterways down the rock end in waterholes to just mention a few...
For sun set we went to a lookout point and had some awesome views of the sun going down behind the massive rock...
There are some really nice hikes there as well. We hiked into the "Valley of the winds" located in the centre of this big rock formations. It was really awesome, as you have very high and steep red stone walls left and right to you as you walk through the valley and you even can hear the wind howling through too. At some lookout points we had a nice view of the surrounding steppe-looking landscape... Kata Tjuta is sometimes said to be more impressive than Uluru, and so we thought too!!
Before we reached the "Outback-capital" Alice Springs we made a quick stop at Kings Canyon.
And it was totally worth it. There is a hiking trail in the canyon, where you hike first in the valley and then climb the steep trail up to the top of the canyon. From there we had a nice view of Kings Canyon and its surroundings.
Further on the trail we passed by a secret waterhole, hidden by steep red rock formations.
The best part of the trail was the lookout where we could oversee the valley from above and the high vertical rising rock formation of the Canyon on the other side of the valley.
Most people skip a visit to this canyon because it is pretty close to Ayers Rock and the Olgas. So I am glad that we hiked in this amazing natural scenery! :-)
We finally reached the "Capital of the red center", spent a day there. We have been to a reptile-house where we saw lizards, guanas and all the poisonous snakes of Australia as well as one 4.5m long "Salty"-crocodile. We even got a short survival-training by the owner in case one of the snakes bites you. But in the end there is not much you can do, are fu..ed up and hen no immediately help is coming you have just a very small chance to survive...
On the next morning we visited the Royal Flying Doctor Service and did a small guided tour there.
Once John Flynn came up with the idea to use air planes to bring medical support also to the people in the outback. The ones who live hundreds of kilometres away from the next hospital...
So the Royal Flying Doctor Service was founded and today the RFDS covers the whole Australian area with a fleet of very modern air crafts and the best medical equipment on board. It is good to know that they will be there if you need them, does not matter where in Australia you are!!
Katherine Gorge National Park:
Further up on the way to Darwin we stopped in Katherine, next to the Katherine Gorge National Park.
Through the park flows the Katherine river which created over thousands of years a valley in the landscape. You can explore the valley by hiking or canyoning, have a nice lookout over the park, go swimming in one of the hundreds waterholes, simply amazing...
We spent 2 days in the park. One day we did a day hike to the Lillipond-waterhole, which is half way down the valley to the river. We were told that you can not go for a swim in the Katherine river as there might be salties waiting for you, but the pond should be fine...!
A little bit sceptic at the beginning we went swimming at Lillipond. In the end we jumped from the cliffs into the water having a really great day!! :-)
rising up to the sky. Every now and then small sandy beaches next to the river. But you are not allowed to get on them as crocodiles are nesting there... ;-)
Not far away from the Katherine Gorge National Park are the Edith falls.
The Edith river created a similar valley than the Katherine-river but with more pounds in different heights, like a fountain.
Spent a day hiking and swimming in the cold but refreshing water of the Edith-river.
The biggest pool we swum is very close to the car park and is almost a small lake.
The funny thing is that there are also freshies (Fresh-water-crocs, up to 3m) in the pond all year round, but as long as there are no salties it should be fine for swimming... :-)
Litchfield National Park:
The last stop before Darwin was the Litchfield National Park. There thousands of waterfalls going down the sandstone-plateau of the Tabletop-ranges forming valleys and croc-free natural pools. The climate there is subtropical, so that a tropical forest could grow.
In the park there are also the up to 6m high termite-mounds to see. Like big towers they are rising up to the sky forming the "skyline of the outback". They are also called "compass of the outback", because with them you are able to exactly determine the cardinal directions:
To avoid the hot and intensive midday sun the termites arranged their mounds exactly North-South. That means during midday the smallest area of the tower is exposed to the sun. With this arrangement they avoid that their homes are overheated by the intensive sun...
Ok, enough termite stories for a day, back to the park:
nice small hiking trails, bats hanging lazy in the trees, beautiful waterfalls, refreshing
cold clear water in the pools for a swim, small fishes that bite you while chilling in the pools and lots of beautiful girls from all over the world were also here...
A real paradise in the outback and a must do in Australia!! :-)
We finally reached Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory and gateway to Asia. We arrived there very late in the afternoon and visited the famous night market at Mindil beach. All kind of foods and drinks are offered for you there.
We had some refreshing tropical smoothies and tried Kangaroo- and Crocodile-steak. Roo was ok but the croc steak I would never eat again, it tasted like a rubber raft!!
The next day was super hot, about 38°C in Darwin. So we spent most of the time in the shadow and visited the Parliament house (boring), the Botanic gardens and Mindil beach. We were looking forward to jump into the ocean at the beach, but Darwin really has a problem with the salties and the box-jellyfishes (both totally deadly to humans). So swimming is at your own risk in the ocean!
We finally went for a swim in the refreshing cool water of our hostel-pool... hehe!! :-)
Kakadu National Park:
The last stop before heading to the East-coast was the famous Kakadu National Park, located East of Darwin and covering an area of 20700km² (2.5 times bigger than Austria). Most parts of the movie "Crocodile-Dundee" with the famous Australian actor Paul Hogan were also filmed in this park.
We arrived pretty late at our first stop Ubirr rock, where there is a short 2.5km trail you can hike.
Along the way there are some cave paintings of the Aborigines on the rocks to admire. But the highlight was the sun set at Ubirr rock, from where we had an amazing view of the wide grassy landscape of the Kakadu National Park.
But the night was horrible, thousands of mosquitos while we were cooking on the camp side and still very hot when we were trying to get some sleep. We were sweating like crazy in our camper van as if we are in a sauna. Luckily we had our tents from New Zealand with us, so we finally set up tent and slept outside...
In the whole park swimming is totally prohibited because of the salties and the warning-plates are everywhere.
In the afternoon we hiked a circuit along Nourlandie rock, which is famous for its many cave-paintings. The paintings are probably 20 000 years old. Why the colour still is so intense is due to an aboriginal painter, who refreshed the colours of the paintings in 1964.
Before sunset we did a boat-tour on the Yellow-water-river, where we saw lost of different birds and of course many salties... We even saw the sun set from our boat on the river which looked really amazing.
There were still lots of things to do and places to visit, but therefore you need a 4wd jeep or do one of the very expensive tours. We were happy to leave because in our opinion this place was not that wild as we thought, too crowded by tourists and too expensive for backpackers like us.
In total we were a little bit disappointed by the park as we had very high expectations. I think there are for sure better places to go in Australia...
The next three days we drove a lot (more than 2000km) to cross the country and finally reached the East-coast of Australia at "the Sunshine State" - Queensland.
The last part of our Australian-tour is slowly heading back to Sydney along the East-coast, with highlights like the Great Barrier reef and the Whitsunday-islands.