Kakadu National Park also features many ancient art sites. Apart from drawing mystical figures from their dream time culture, the Aborigines also did a lot of practical and straightforward painting, e.g. to educate their children about possible food sources. Preferred drawing material was and is ochre, which plays an important part in Aboriginal culture (also for body paintings).
Fish & Chips in Darwin
Darwin, capital city of the Northern Territory. Due to the few inhabitants, everything is a bit more relaxed around here. Following through on a tip we had received while travelling, we went to the Stokes Hill Wharf to indulge in delicious Fish (Barramundi) & Chips. The area also offers something for the historically interested, as it was targeted during Japanese bombings raids on Australia during WW2.
Waterfalls and Termite Mounds: Litchfield!
A nice day trip from Darwin! Litchfield National Park offers several water falls, that allow for a refreshing swim in their basin (please see photography section). It is also home to different types of termites, which are truly fascinating architects . Below you can see a mound typical for the Magnetic Termite. To control temperature, the narrow side of the mound is perfectly aligned from East to West, leaving the wide sides to face north (always sunny and warm) and south (always shady and cool). The result looks a bit like a tombstone.
The Aborigines belief, that the mystical dream time figure of the rainbow serpent laid its eggs here. Geologists get equally excited at this seemingly random accumulation of massive round stones. It is not too difficult to understand why marbles feature in the English name of the site.
Also known as Alice Springs – welcome to the main hub of the Red Centre. After driving for hours and hours through beautiful but non-inhabited Outback landscapes, you are suddenly in Alice Springs. For us it was the place to have our exhaust fixed, which started to make beautiful but illegal noises. And of course, being in Alice, you also would go out to explore the nearby MacDonnell Ranges – which is exactly what we did.
Ok, we simply were lucky! As it had rained quite a bit in the Red Centre in the weeks prior to our arrival – ending a 7 year draught – wild flowers where in abundance everywhere! My wife thought, she was in the largest flower shop on Planet Earth. No picture can replace the impression of standing on the side of a lonesome, red, dusty road and seeing flowers in all directions until the horizon.
Coming from Alice Springs and going to Uluru, it would be a pity to not visit Kings Canyon! The 6km rim walk is an experience we can highly recommend. Allow 4 hours if walking at slow to moderate speed. A healthy fitness level, a hat and lots of water are good companions. On hot days be there early, as the walk gets closed later in the day. First you climb up from the base to the rim and then the track – as the name suggests – takes you along the rim. You even get to see the “Garden of Eden” along the way (see Photography section). At some places you can virtually stand right next to a 300m high drop off. So don´t go too far!
Uluru-Kata Tjuta – or Ayers Rock and The Olgas
You can have endless discussions which of the two you prefer! Uluru is the largest single monolith on earth. But Kata Tjuta is even higher and consists of multiple rocks. So chose your own favourite! Both have their colour in common, which is caused by rust, as the rocks have a high content of iron. Hence people also call Uluru somewhat affectionately “the big rusty thing”. My favourite were The Olgas, they are a bit less hyped and it was easier to find a spot for my tripod. But back to the main attraction of the park, which is Uluru. There is an ongoing discourse if people should still climb it, which you currently can, but which is in conflict with the traditional law of the Anangu people, the traditional landowners. We decided to refrain from climbing to not cause any offence and enjoyed the views from the ground.
Coober Pedy: The “Opal Capital” of the world
And that is not an empty statement. 80% of all existing opal is found in this area! But that´s not all. Coober Pedy also claims to be the only place on earth where you can camp underneath the ground (at Riba´s) – of course in a discontinued opal mine. That in itself was an interesting and equally dusty experience. And then there is also the Hollywood side of this rustic outback location. Parts of “Mad Max” and other sci-fi/action movies were cast here, taking advantage of the rough and somewhat monotone surroundings of Coober Pedy.
Culture shocks in and around Adelaide
After having been in the Outback for several weeks and thus coming out of a world where you greet everybody you meet on the road, it was quite a culture shock coming back into a larger metropolitan area. We were welcomed by a traffic jam, something we had neither experienced nor missed since leaving Sydney 3 months ago. To get over it we took a tour into the close-by Barossa Valley, which provided us with a culture shock of the more recommendable type. Lovely wineries and food! While the Seppeltsfield Estate was a good source for Tawny (I especially liked their 21 yr old Para Tawny), the Hentley Farm was certainly impressive with their Shiraz variations! Lunch at Maggie Beer´s Farmshop and a visit to a nearby Lavender Farm completed a lovely day trip.
Storm and lights out in South Australia
After heavy rainfalls and already intense wind gusts, the electricity of our powered campsite in Adelaide went out in the afternoon. Assuming that the weather might have caused the problem, I went outside to ask others, if they also experienced a power failure on their sites. As two close-by gentlemen looked up from their smartphones, they informed me, that the problem was slightly bigger then my tent. The whole of South Australia had gone off the grid. As a once-every-50-years-storm was still to hit South Australia over the next two days – with predicted wind speeds of up to 140km/h – we decided to take our tent down, before the wind did, and moved into a cabin. Like many South Australians that night, we got out some candles, a nice bottle of wine and hoped that all would go well for everybody in the affected area.