I wrote some of this post at the beginning of our Roadtrip through Australia which totaled 10,400 km or 6462 miles. Due to the remoteness of the outback I wasn't able to finish it before returning home, so here is a single post highlighting our trip through the massive country. From our journey from Cairns to Uluru and back, to Alice Springs then up to Darwin before making the slow journey back, we saw SO much of what Australia had to offer. Perhaps a fitting title is There and Back Again, Through The Dreamtime and the Red Center.
For those back home we drove roughly the equivalent of Maine to Arizona in a few days then up to the Canada border and then back down to Colorado before driving back to Maine at the end of our trip. Yes it was a lot of driving. We would've made better timing but driving at night with millions of wild kangaroos on the loose is not a good idea. Did I mention it was a lot of driving? One night we were driving we got t-boned by a kangaroo outside of Mt. Isa. It was funny and sad at the same time. At least I can say I never hit a kangaroo. Even during the day it's a bit crazy avoiding all the road hazards besides the 5 and 6 length road trains.
We began in Cairns and after Tiffany arrived we spent our first night in camping outside of Atherton. We then camped in Normanton and then made for Mount Isa to meet a friend of Carmens from grade school. Carrie and Singen were absolutely wonderful and cooked for us and let us crash at their place. Thank you so much for the tour and amazing dinner guys!!! After a quick stop for some donuts we made it after a long day of driving to the Devils Marbles and met our first bit of rain. Then we drove ALL the next day to get to Uluru to pick up the last of our group, Jenny. Then the road trip officially started after over 4000 km.
We spent a full week in Uluru, Kata Tjuta National Park and ended up buying a year pass because it was cheaper than paying the daily entry fee. If we go back this year we can still get in!
I proposed to Tiffany at Uluru!!!!!!! (She said yes!!!!!!) After nearly five years and traveling 7 countries (and living in three of them!) together I thought the best place to propose would be on the open road where it all began for us. For those that don't know, we met just a few days before I went to Thailand on a one way ticket with my good friend Eric. Somehow I convinced Tiffany over Skype to come travel with me and we've been together ever since. =)
During our time in Uluru we did most of what was on offer. Camel riding and trekking nearly all the walking paths took the better part of a few days. The field of light tour at night was great and an awesome way to end a day of trekking.
When it came to the decision of climbing Uluru or not I was really undecided. The Aboriginals ask that you don't climb it because it is of great cultural importance to them. When we arrived I was leaning towards not climbing it but after seeing a well made path with chains to help you climb up and paint to guide you along the top I felt like I should climb it. If there wasn't a path and it wasn't obvious that it was meant to be climbed I wouldn't have climbed it. Or if it was officially closed and I would have to climb over a fence of course I wouldn't climb it. I just feel like the park management needs to make a decision and stick to it. Having climbed it I am glad I did, the view was phenomenal and I did feel pretty accomplished climbing it. I wondered how different the vast plain around Uluru must have looked to the first Aboriginal who climbed it eons ago. Uluru is HUGE! I would say it is just under the size of Mt. Elden in Flagstaff Arizona except it is ONE ROCK.
We were rained out one day and enjoyed a $140 powered campsite to get our tech fix before heading back out into the outback. We made for Kings Canyon and expected to spend a couple days there hiking and relaxing before heading to Alice Springs. Instead we had a tyre blow up on us and nearly went tumbling through the outback.
The company we hired the van through Camperman sent us out with a tyre that had an inner wall with no real tread. After working for a year in New Zealand supervising a rental car company I shouldn't have missed it but after 5000km it caught up with us and blew out when we were hundreds of km from any town or repair shop. On top of that our carjack that was provided was broken so we could have really been up Wolfe Creek (anyone get the reference :p ). Luckily it didn't take long for a friendly retired couple from Adelaide to pass us and offer some help. With their jack and the lift power of 5 people we managed to get the tyre off and a spare on.
We ended up spending that night outside of Kings Canyon in a freedom camping area just off the road. PRO TIP: IF you are planning a trip through the outback of Australia and can't find any info on free camping let me make it clear, there is free camping nearly country wide every 50km or so. I couldn't find much info online about it because the Australian Government wants you to pay for sites to support the economy (which I understand) but for poor vagabonds like us it is really important to be able to stay for free sometimes.
During our time in Alice Springs we met up with Brolga, more commonly known as Kangaroo Dundee. He is the man behind the Kangaroo Sanctuary with a goal to rescue, rehabilitate and release orphaned baby kangaroos back into the wild. Those who can't be released into the wild are released into the wilds of their 188 acre Sanctuary. We spent the better part of two hours walking through his enclosure while learning all about kangaroos and the native flora. It was fascinating to hear stories of how insane of a project he began with to make it all happen. When he was just starting out he lived in the bush on that property on just a mattress for over 2 years before building a structure. There is a BBC documentary on him as well, you can find out more about that and the three season tv series here. If you are in Central Australia you really should make time to visit the Sanctuary and support what he is doing.
Later that night we began to make our way north up to Kakadu National Park and Darwin but first we made a stop at a break in the MacDonnell ranges for a selfie under the stars. This is one of my favorite night images I've taken. Tiffany and Carmen were in the van right behind where the tripod was setup while Jenny, Gianna and myself sat in the road.
After Alice Springs we didn't stop much before making it to Kakadu National Park. We spent another night at the Devils Marbles and I had my last real night of stargazing before the moon procession made it impossible for a dark sky. We also had a lot more cloud and weather as we got into the tropical region of the north.
After a full day of driving we stayed at Mataranka and then Katherine Gorge so Gianna and Jenny could do some Kayaking.
To me Kakadu was one of the bigger highlights of the trip as was Uluru. There was so much birdlife I could barely keep up with it all. I shot 1700 images just one day when we went on the Yellow Water cruise in central Kakadu. If you are traveling through the park and want to only do one thing, do the Yellow Water sunrise cruise followed by the MASSIVE all you can eat breakfast. I would have paid $50 just for the breakfast.
We saw the biggest crocodile that ever walked the earth (below) and a dizzying amount of bird life. Kingfishers, herons, mud skippers, cranes, wild pigs, barramundi, magpie goose, terns, bats, whistling ducks, pygmy goose, jacanas, the list goes on and on. While making our way back from Darwin we were trying to figure out all the wildlife we saw. At last count that list had over 42 different kinds of wild animals we saw. From wild horses to a huge perentie we nearly ran over to the crazy mohawk pigeons and Jesus birds (comb crested jacana) I've never seen so much wildlife. Australia is a great place to visit if you are after some wildlife.
Another place we were lucky to see was the ancient Aboriginal wall art in Eastern Kakadu at a place called Ubir. Much of it is estimated to have been painted and repainted since 40,000 BC. It is officially a place only allowed to be visited by women but the park management has relaxed the rules for non-indeginous travelers. I am glad they did because the view at the top of the largest rock outcropping is one of my favorites from the entire trip. It made me want to visit Africa because it so much resembled the savanna.
After spending a few days in Kakadu we made for Litchfield National Park before heading to Darwin to drop of Jenny and Gianna. We stayed at a great holiday park called Litchfield Safari Camp which was well maintained and nearly mozzy free which is a miracle considering we were in the tropical north where everywhere else we were had terrible mosquitos.
Next we made for Darwin and instead of staying at an overpriced holiday park we found a fantastic Airbnb which had included breakfast and a beautiful room and grounds to stay at. It was a great way to end the big part of our road trip. It was hard saying goodbye to the two Germans, After spending week after week crammed in a van with five people either everyone gets along or everyone hates each other. I'm glad we were all friends afterwards and hopefully we can see you both again when we visit Germany! :)
And then there were three. Over the next week Carmen, Tiffany and myself road tripped all the way back to Cairns. We had some very long 13 hour driving days but I still enjoyed it. Its a good thing much of the outback doesn't have an enforced speed limit. I loved going 145kph. The last day was the hardest, we just wanted to be done driving.
We made it back to Cairns with a few days to spare and after seeing more than a few movies in theaters. Tiffany and I went on a snorkel day trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. It was my second time there and it was really cool to see it in a different season. There was some different sea life and the water was clearer than it was when I was last there in November. I took the opportunity to do two self guided scuba dives with another American couple we met through Carmen who work at the best hostel in Cairns: Dreamtime. I'm so glad I got certified last year, it was great just going where we wanted and not having to follow a guide or be limited to certain areas of the reef. I ended up with a turtle selfie and even saw a black tip reef shark. Not the biggest shark I've seen diving but definitely close.
That about sums up our return to the down under. If I don't make it back to Australia for a while I won't be too sad, this trip was one of the best and I feel like we really saw Australia.
Now that we are back in Arizona we are working on building a tiny house so we can have more freedom later on especially after we get married. WE ARE GETTING MARRIED! Now its time to dig in and work for a while but stay tuned for more Astrophotography as well as some guides and reviews coming soon. I plan to start some Astrophotography tours up here now that we have a vehicle that can go just about anywhere so stay tuned for that as well.
Thanks for following my blog and for supporting me as an artist. I JUST launched my revamped online store so if you've been considering buying a print its now far easier than ever. I also finally offer world wide shipping for those that have been asking for it and when you check out in the store simply typing in your address will apply the correct shipping option for your location. Any questions or comments i'd love to hear them!