I like doing things differently than everyone else. So when mid-semester break rolled around, of course I didn’t go where everyone else was going. Most of my peers went along the coast. I, on the other hand, went inland to the true outback of Australia—the good ol’ Northern Territory in Central Australia. I don’t think I’ve ever been so hot or seen so few clouds.
I started my journey at Uluru, which is the traditional name for Ayer’s Rock. Essentially, it’s a big rock in the middle of nowhere, or at least that’s what I thought. Uluru is a really important part in Aboriginal culture because a lot of dreaming stories take place there. It also served as a meeting place for different families. Uluru is the second largest monolith in the world with a height of 348 meter but it also goes 6,000 meters below ground.
There it is!!
We started out at the Aboriginal Centre where we learned different stories about Uluru. A few photos were covered with paper saying that the image below would be offensive to Aboriginal people. We learned that when an Aboriginal person dies, any pictures of them or paintings by them must be covered. Otherwise, the person’s spirit will be lost.
We walked around the base of Uluru and there are some areas that you are prohibited from photographing because they are considered sensitive parts of the rock. This can be because of initiation practices or stories linked to this particular area.
Uluru was one of those sights that I’ve been dying to see. Being there was a completely different experience. It was so much bigger than I could have ever imagined and was way redder. I probably said it 50 times. My tour guide just kept laughing at me.
348 meters high. Only a little taller than me
We got back just in time to get on our bus and go to watch the sunset. It was strange to see a sunset with no clouds but been a while since I really sat down and watched the sunset!
Uluru at sunset
We went back to our campsite and our tour guide cooked us dinner over a fire. We ate kangaroo bolognaise and he even somehow baked apple crumble in a pan. He said anything you can make at home, you can make in the outback. After watching him cook, I believe it.
By the time everyone started setting up his or her swag and getting ready for bed, I was fast asleep and snoring before everyone had set up his or her swags.
The next morning we woke up at 4:40 AM to eat breakfast before the sunrise. Sidenote: I actually like Vegemite now, which makes me one of about 6 Americans.
Sunrise from our campsite
We drove to Kata Tjuta, which means many heads. This entire site was considered a male sensitive site but we were allowed to take pictures. We did the full circuit loop, which was 7.4 kilometers.
After our hike we ate lunch at a camel farm. They were really friendly and one even tried to eat my hair.
Mike Mike Mike guess what day it is
On our way to our next stop, we stopped at the Mount Connor lookout. There’s a salt lake but it has no water in it since it’s so hot. Our guide told us an Aboriginal story about how Mt. Connor came to be.
That night we slept at a campsite again and this time I was awake a lot longer. Since there are no major cities anywhere near central Australia so the stars were amazing. You could see the Southern Cross, the Milky Way, and multiple shooting stars.
Our campsite for the night
The next day we slept in until 5 AM! We started our morning with a 6-kilometer walk at King’s Canyon.
Don’t worry someone grabbed me just in time…
As we went through, we went through a section called the Garden of Eden. There was actually water and a lot of shade down there. It was probably the coolest I was all trip! My trip leader brought us apples for a snack to eat there…oh the irony.
Apples in the Garden of Eden
Near the end of the hike, we saw the oldest tree in the canyon. Her name is Queen of the Desert.
There she is (right)
Someone spotted a lizard so my trip leader picked him up. We found out if you turn a lizard on his back and rub his belly, he’ll fall asleep. Look at him, he’s so cute!
After a lot of driving, we finally made it to Alice Springs! We stopped as a group at the sign so we could take a photo together. After, we all went out for drinks together and to say goodbye to Sam.
On this day we had a free day before we had to get back on the road so we had a chance to explore Alice Springs. It’s this little town in the middle of the country. Sam said that half of the population is locals, and half are people who there for work.
A group of us went to the reptile exhibit. When we walked in, there was a goanna just hanging out on the floor. Her name is Ruby and when she was little, her brothers and sisters ate her toes off because they thought they were food.
Ruby the Goanna
We watched the animal demonstration where we learned about the different snakes and lizards. I found out there is such a thing as a legless lizard. The way you tell them apart from snakes is that they have ears on the side of their heads. We also had a chance to see an Australian snake fang compared to an American snake fang. The Australian fang was a lot smaller which made me feel a lot safer. 18 of 20 deadly snakes live in Australia but as long as you wear proper clothing in the bush, the fangs won’t touch you.
After the show, we were allowed to hold the bearded lizard and the snake.
Who are you looking at?
For the rest of the time, we walked around the exhibits.
I’ve never seen a happier lizard
That night, we went to the top of Anzac hill and watched the sunset over Alice Springs and it was the most amazing sunset I’ve ever seen.
On to Darwin (and Devil’s Marbles)
On our 5th day, we started our 1500-kilometer trek to Darwin at 6 in the morning. It was a long day of driving but luckily we stopped at a place called the Devil’s Marbles. It was really hot but exciting because we were allowed to climb the rocks.
That night we stopped to camp. It’s crazy how the farther north we went, the more water you found. On our campsite, the owner came out with a green frog. I got to hold him and he liked me so much he started to climb up my arm, onto my shoulder and then all the way up to on my head cause I had just taken a shower and he liked the moisture. Unfortunately while he was up there, he pooped on my head!
Today was unfortunately a long driving day. We stopped to see the very first international airport. Just as we got there, we watched a plane land. I’m really happy that my plane to Australia didn’t land here!
After, we went to Daly Waters Pub for lunch and was the first pub in the Northern Territory and even had a pool. Our trip leader made a barbeque while we swam in the pool and I got a cider from the oldest pub in the NT!
Sidenote: This was the first day that I actually saw a cloud in the Northern Territory!
Later, we went to the Mataranka thermal pools. We all went swimming and I brought my snorkel gear along. I saw a few schools of fish…and luckily no crocodiles!
We ended our night in Katherine, which was only 300 kilometers away from Darwin. After we ate dinner, we were sitting around the campfire and a wallaby hopped up to us. She was so calm and our trip leader said it would be okay to feed her so we fed her lettuce. She even had a joey in her pouch.
Mama and baby wallaby coming to explore the camp
On this day we slept in until 6! We did some driving in the morning and ended up at the Katherine Gorge where we went kayaking for the afternoon. It was nice to get off the bus and get some exercise in. I shared a kayak with my friend Sarah and we enjoyed the beautiful view. We stopped halfway to enjoy the view and have a snack and a swim.
When we were heading back, Sarah realized that she left her water bottle back at our stop. If we brought back our kayak late, we’d be charged a late fee. I’ve never paddled so hard in my life. We made it back on time, with 5 minutes to spare!
That night we said goodbye to our tour group. Finally arriving in Darwin was terrifying because I went into not having booked a hostel. Luckily, a few friends I made on the trip had made accommodation plans and encouraged me to follow them. There was room in the hostel and I walked into a 6-person room WITH NO AIR CONDITIONING. Needless to say, those were some long nights just because of the heat.
Excited for the day, my friends and I woke up early to start our big adventure, we walked along the coast. It was the most water that I had seen in a long time, and you couldn’t even swim in it or drink it!
We walked along the streets and found Darwin’s museum of contemporary art. This collection of burned papers was my favorite because the burns I thought were what gave the pieces character, It made them more beautiful than if it would have just been a painting.
By noon, it was so hot that we went back to our hostel and sat around the pool for a while. When we had cooled off, we walked to the botanical gardens and so a lot of really interesting plants and trees. We even saw this weird bush that looked like it had a pink pineapple.
We ended our night by watching the sunset at Mindil Beach. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets that I’ve ever seen. Just look at it!
Kakadu and driving
Because I was the oldest in our group, I was the only one eligible to rent a car. So a group of us rented a car for the day to drive out to Kakadu. Driving on the left side of the road was scary but once you got the hang of it, it just felt like normal driving (which I haven’t done in 3 months!). The only thing I never seemed to get the hang on was the turn signal. Instead of being on the left side, it was on the right and the windshield wipers were reversed as well.
Don’t worry friends, the car was stopped and in park!!
We hiked up to the Mirrai lookout. It was only 1.6 kilometers but it was steep and almost 40 degrees Celsius. It was a hard walk but the view was breathtaking.
Then we hiked up to the Nourlangie Rock Lookout.
I had such an amazing week in the Outback. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!