“The Northern Territory – where speed limits are one hundred and thirty if they exist at all and where just about everything can kill you”
Last year my boyfriend and I spent time travelling around Australia in a converted camper-van. It’s a crazy, beautiful paradise out there in the untamed desert country. Here’s what I loved, what I learnt and how my perception of this land we call home was forever altered…
Prior to this trip my experiences of Australia were limited to that of a life spent on the cruisy east coast of NSW. So as we travelled further, beyond my last familiar point of reference on the southern Queensland coast, it didn’t take long for me to realise just how different the rest of the country is.
By the time we started out along the Savannah Way, inland and out of our coastal comfort zone, we still hadn’t quite settled into the rhythm of things. It took a break down in Normanton to coerce us towards a new, slower pace. We spent a week in this hot, dusty little town waiting for our van to be fixed. As the days rolled by and we learnt to let go of our preconceived plans, we discovered that there were connections to be made and beauty to behold. We camped by a pretty lagoon where the caretaker’s motto soon became our own – “amazing sunsets, a chandelier of stars, barramundi, birdlife and blazing campfires, it doesn’t get better than this!” We were opened up to a different means of existence and we continued on our way with a newfound sense of ease.
The Northern Territory – where speed limits are one hundred and thirty if they exist at all and where just about everything can kill you – our time here was the most memorable and exciting. We stayed in Darwin and the surrounding regions during Gunumeleng known as ‘the build-up’ season. This is the pre-monsoon season, where temperatures hit the high thirties every day and thunderstorms build broodingly through the afternoons. Kakadu experiences six seasons, each offering its own source of beauty. There is something particularly electrifying about the build-up, seeing the land prepare for its most dramatic change which will come with the onset of the tropical monsoon season.
One evening, driving south towards Alice Springs, we were able to simultaneously see the sun set in the west and the full moon rise in the east. We spent the night at Devil’s Marbles / Karlu Karlu. In the morning we watched the sunrise paint the land red while the still bright moon slowly sunk behind the striking rock formations. In Alice Springs we encountered wisdom from the oldest living culture on earth, that of Aboriginal Australia. We attended Parrtjima, a desert festival featuring light installations by Aboriginal artists, set against the sublime backdrop of the West MacDonnell Ranges. Alice will always hold a special place in my heart. My great-grandfather Wally Allan moved out to Alice Springs in 1947 to help setup the town’s very first newspaper, The Centralian Advocate. He was the inaugural editor and one of his stories featured an interview with artist Albert Namatjira. We visited the hometown of Namatjira, the Aboriginal community of Hermannsburg (Ntaria), Western Aranda country. Here we were able to see some of his watercolours which capture the colours of the Tjoritja landscape so brilliantly.
Not often does travel inspire in us a sense of being grounded. Yet this trip engendered exactly that effect. Our meals were wholesome, cooked on the fire everyday. We immersed ourselves in nature and marvelled at its wonders. Spotting the rare, all white crocodile named Pearl lurking in the murky waters of Darwin’s Adelaide River was a completely mystifying experience. As was connecting with the awe-inspiring phenomenon of sacred Uluru. The NT highways are home to some of the world’s longest trucks. It was cruising those dusty, lonely roads that I learnt how to overtake a road train. We even sailed with the entire Australian Outlaw Bikie Gang on the Spirit of Tasmania. The tales are as boundless and diverse as the landscape itself. Traversing this wild land is an eye-opening adventure that I believe everyone should experience.
Photos + Words: Rafaella Lucini