This is an article I wrote for my college paper a few years ago, I just found it and it’s actually pretty good!
Unfolding before me was the Great Australian Outback. On my left, sun-drenched soil and the odd tree lined the path, on my right, the same. It stretched for miles and miles and miles. Around me the countryside had transformed from the green leafiness of Darwin to the baron wasteland of the Outback.
I chose to do a Desert Adventurer tour to get me from Darwin to Cairns on the promise it would take me off the beaten track of the Stuart Highway and into the ‘Real Australia’.
The first day started early. I boarded the luxury tour bus with just five others to start our adventure. We were a motley crew: a German mother and daughter happily spending the divorce settlement; a swiss guy who didn’t seem to understand anything that was going on and two Irish girls who proved their heritage by getting pissed every night.
We were destined south to Mataranka for lunch. Here we shed the clothes we had been sneakily sleeping in on the bus and changed into bathers. We followed the bamboo walkway to a blissful paradise; sandwiched between thick tropical foliage was an emerald hot spa all to ourselves. We couldn’t stop long; there was a lot of ground to cover before night. So on we went through Katherine and along the Adelaide River.
Our ever impressive tour-guide-come-driver, Greg, told us fantastical tales of Australia gone by: “I was brought up in the bush, I’ve lived with aboriginals and survived in the outback on me own for days on end”. What he didn’t understand about the outback just wasn’t worth knowing.
He was a white middle class father, so surprised us by casually announcing he had lived with the aboriginals for many years. We drove past his old settlement. “It’s not a tourist attraction,” he told us, describing some of the aboriginal myths and legends that dictate their daily life and prevent tourists mocking their culture by ‘visiting’.
The next stop at the Daly Waters pub provided fuel for both us and the bus. The pub, satiated with character, was a celebration of people from all over the globe. Business cards were pinned to the walls from anyone who felt the urge to leave a permanent mark on this passing stop in their life. Outside their pet camel glanced at us uninterested, as it must have done to thousands of people before.
We carried on to the night’s stopover, a modest looking room in the most remote pub in Oz, the Heartbreak Hotel. The name is nothing to do with Elvis Presley, but the owner’s personal heartbreak. He designed and built the homestead for himself and his wife to get away from the rat race. She then cheated on him and promptly left for the bright lights of the city.
The characters on the veranda told me they were the ‘Real Australia’ I was looking for. One of them told me; “in the Outback we work hard, play hard and damn enjoy it.” They tried to convince me it would be a good career move to become a jillaroo on the homestead, “We’ll get ya’s drivin a tractor in no time dahl”. I decided against it.
Day two: Crossing the Northern Territory…