Richard & Colleen’s Excellent Adventures Part 5: Australian Outback

Photo: Richard and Colleen’s campervan

By Colleen Wileman

We arrived in Alice Springs, Northern Territory by air, picked up our campervan and headed off to find the nearest campground. Thankfully, it was quite close by so we did not have to do a lot of navigating through the city while Richard got the hang of driving on the left side of the road. We spent the night there, became acquainted with the camper and early the next morning we headed out towards Kings Canyon, our first stop in the Outback.

We arrived at about 3:30, set up camp and went for a short walk along the Canyon floor across the dry creek beds. Apparently, when the rains come, these creeks are overflowing and become impassable. The next morning we hiked up to and along the rim of King’s Canyon. It was 6 kms of climbing up, down and over rocks. It was well worth the effort as all the various views of the canyon were magnificent.

After the canyon hike and a short hike across an abandoned cattle station, we headed off to Ayers Rock/Uluru. We arrived at the Ayers Rock Campground at about 4 PM and after supper, we watched the sunset over Uluru. Though not particularly impressive and nothing compared to a prairie sunset, the impressive part is that we were really there!! Sometimes I still can’t believe that we travelled around in a campervan in the middle of Australia!! WOW!!

We broke camp the next morning and once at Uluru, we stopped at the Cultural Centre to view a video about the Aboriginal culture that relates to the pieces of land that Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park sit on. (Formerly Ayers Rock and The Olgas). This land was given back to the Anangu people in 1985. Together with the Federal Government, they are creating a place of spiritual healing and understanding.

Though we were unable to climb Uluru (now illegal in 2019), we did walk the entire base (a total of 10 kms) and came to appreciate the natural and cultural beauty of Uluru. There are caves, holes, different textures and colors to interrupt its smooth red surface. You can almost hear the spririts of yesteryear whispering their stories as you pass by their ancestral home.

Saying goodbye to Uluru, we decided that we had enough daylight left to make it to Kulgera Roadhouse. This is a campground/motel/bar/restaurant that is 20 kms from the South Australian border. They tout themselves as the first or last pub in the Northern Territtory – depending on which direction you are travelling. We arrived late in the afternoon, and instead of eating in our camper yet again, we decided to have supper there. Richard, always the food adventurer, ate emu and kangaroo sliders. Not nearly as adventurous, I just had fish and chips!

On Day Number 5 we reached Coober Pedy in South Australia. This town is known as the Opal Capital of the world and also for their underground lifestyle which is unlike anything else on earth. Many homes, hotels, churches and restaurants are tunnelled into the hillsides and are nearly invisible on first inspection. We set up camp and after wandering around for a while, we stumbled upon the Catholic church which was actually tunnelled right into the hill. That was pretty cool!

Cave Church in Coober Pedy.

Leaving Coober Pedy early the next morning, we drove all day and stopped at a rest stop just southeast of Adelaide for the night. We covered a lot of ground – 887 kms to be exact!! We found that the landscape changed quickly at times. One minute sagebrush, the next minute there would be trees, and next there would be red hills popping out of the ground. I cannot imagine the spirit of the people living there and what they have to live with everyday – heat, dust, flies, and most of all, the isolation.

As we moved south, signs for cattle stations as well as cattle and sheep crossing signs became more frequent. There are no fences, so livestock wander back and forth across the highway in search of food. Even though we did see cattle and sheep, we did not see one house or ranch in the 1500 miles of travel. They are obviously situated very far off the highway!!

Once we were about 100 kms north of Adelaide the scenery changed again. Not exactly sure where the Outback ends and civilization begins, but the grass was greener, crops were growing, there were farms and lots of trees – pine trees and palm trees, vineyards and olive gardens. In the distance the Flinders Mountain Range appeared and added to the surreal landscape.
Even though the miles were long, I would not change this trip through the Outback. It was all that I thought it would be – and more!!

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