Late February, I took a flight into Melbourne to meet a friend of mine. There was a plan in the making, an idea taking shape for the future. We were doing a test run for an outback adventure - a two and a half week trip, four wheel driving through some of Australia's most rugged and beautiful landscapes. On a rough calculation, the return journey was about 5,765kms, maybe more! An amazing effort for my friend, seasoned professional and four wheel driving expert.
Our journey began in the inner city suburb of Carlton, car packed up, we set off. The first leg was from Melbourne to Adelaide. We stopped here overnight, before making our way to Coober Pedy. I do need to admit that any road trip with me, is always going to be filled with stops and detours. For some it can get a bit tedious, but lucky for me, my travelling companion (Geoff) also has an adventurous spirit.
On route to Coober Pedy, we made a few stops along the way - a road side rest stop to check out Island Lagoon in the distance, lunch at Lake Hart and we even stopped to watch amazing rain clouds forming in the distance.
In Coober Pedy, we took an Opal mine tour at Umoona Opal Mine. I had a sense of dread and foreboding heading down into the underground mine. I think it was just a bout of claustrophobia because soon after the tour began, I seemed to forget my concerns and began to really enjoy myself. The venue also offered accommodations which were underground dug outs. I think when in Coober Pedy, you should afford yourself the opportunity of staying underground. It is part of life in this remote desert town and it is a unique experience to be had.
From Coober Pedy, Geoff made a special stop for me - The Breakaways. This place is an arid landscape with startling rock formations and stony deserts coloured in tones of autumn - brown, orange, red and rust create a striking colour palette. Well worth the detour!
After our detour, it was a long drive to Uluru. I really wanted to make sunset! Alas, it was an overcast evening and there was no sun or sunset in sight. Even so, my mood could not be dampened. Whilst watching the last remnants of light fade away and cast the rock in darkness, we enjoyed our barbecue dinner. After dinner we drove to a new location and camped wild, slept in tents with a fire blazing. This would be the first night of many, camping in remote areas, cocooned by fire and the night sky to watch over us. It was whilst away from the city, with the darkness and eerie cacophony of dingos thick around us, where I began to feel replenished and whole again.
Whilst visiting the National Park area, we did all the iconic stops. We returned for sunrise at Uluru. Before heading to Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and eventually Kings Canyon. I've done them before but the place holds such mystery and beauty, it's worth the return visit.
After visiting the big three of Central Australia, we made our way to the West Macdonnell Ranges. This was particularly exciting for me, as I had not done this area before! Part of our route was a dusty unsealed road (recommended for four wheel drives) and this added to the feeling of isolation and escape. Slowly there was a change in scenery, it went from dark red earthy tones to hues of green and yellow. The outback an ever changing canvas of colour. We camped along the sandy banks of the Finke River, close to the waters edge. With no one around us, we were able to enjoy the serenity of the place. In the afternoon, we made the very short trip to Glen Helen Gorge, where I headed down to the waters edge to photograph the cliffs at sunset. Completely alone, I stood in the water with my camera gear set up and was blown away by the intense beauty. The red rock ridges illuminated by the afternoon sun, creating light and shadow were breath taking. Definitely one to add to the bucket list!
In the evening, we sat fireside laughing, eating and enjoying the crackle and play of light. The best part of camping are those fireside moments spent in the company of good friends. After retiring to bed, I was awoken sometime around 4am to the sound of dingoes howling in our camp. A pack stood no further than 3m from our tent. After our dingo visit, I didn't sleep much and rose early, taking my morning coffee to the waters edge watching the changing light and the heat of the day start to build.
Packing up camp in the heat is never the most enjoyable experience. But it's even worse after a couple of days without a shower! So by the time we arrived at our next destination, I was busting to cool off. We were at Ormiston Gorge. This was my favourite swimming spot of the trip! I will admit, I initially had no intention of swimming - I had left my swimming gear packed away but that has never stopped me before. It was hot, I hadn't showered in a couple of days and the water was so inviting. Warning: it was freezing!!! But invigorating, uplifting and made me feel wonderfully anew! We spent some time here, basking in the sun and swimming in the gorge. With the camp on the Finke River and a couple of hours spent at Ormiston Gorge, without a doubt, my favourite part of the trip!
We also visited Ellery Creek Big Hole, a much larger waterhole with more people. I was spent from my earlier explorations and didn't spend a lot of time here. But the waters were vast and frigid! After getting a few photos, we headed back to the car as it was now time to head to a town called Alice....