The Australian outback is one of those places that we as Europeans imagine visiting with awe. It’s hot, it’s far, there are plenty of things that can kill you and we think it’s exactly like Crocodile Dundee; well I did anyway. It made me realise just how massively massive Australia is and how unbelievably dry and empty the middle of it is. I mean I knew these things before, but I didn’t really know, you know?
I didn’t meet any Crocodile Dundees. I didn’t even meet any crocodiles but we did get to do a lot of other cool stuff so here, in concise non rambly (maybe a little bit rambly) list form is a list of 10 things to do in the Australian outback in no particular sensible order.
1. Look super-duper cool in a super-duper cool fly hat!
These hats are hot, sticky, and about as sexy as crocs but oh the joy of not having flies land in your eyes and nostrils trying to suck any ounce of moisture out of you. No wonder the spiders here are so fat, they have a veritable feast of flies.
2. Lick the ground and drink tequila
Me and tequila have an ugly history but I was willing to let that go for this shot. The salt lakes in the outback are one of the coolest things I’ve seen. Big flat white sheets in the middle of the vast red landscape make for striking horizon-less photos and silly poses (below) but the heat with the reflection is pretty unbearable after a good 15 minutes. And you musn’t forget your fly hat. Those damn flies. They want your sweat.
3. Marvel at the nothingness
Have you ever had one of those moments where you’re just astounded by the space and the emptiness. Well, we got that a lot of that there. You could stare at the longest uneventful road for hours and not see another soul pass by and in some of the towns, it feels exactly like being in a ghost town.
4. Animal watch
During those long uneventful drives the only thing that makes it special is an eagle flying overhead, a camel in the distance, an echidna (look at the cute little thing – I shared a Wiki picture as the only one I have is a picture of its bum as the poor thing tried to hide in a bush with about two leaves on it.) Rock wallabies, who are now kept protected from predators due to declining numbers, are also really adorable but really hard to spot as they blend into the rocks and the only way you spot them is by their twitching from the flies landing on their ears. I feel your pain rock wallaby.Also snakes and spiders obviously.Watch out for them.
5. Hunt for opal
Australia, for those who don’t know, is the world’s opal mine and the wee town of Coober Pedy is the world’s opal capital. We went on an opal mine tour and also did a bit of scavenging ourselves, then got opal fever and still to this day, get excited when something looks shiny on the ground, which is often broken glass. We haven’t polished our finds up yet as they’re mostly tiny and probably worthless, but pretty. Some people do apparently strike it rich though and it’s a lot of fun. But remember… Don’t forget your fly hat.
6. Sleep in a cave
Another very cool thing you get to do in Coober Pedy is sleep underground in a nice cool cave. There are plenty of desert cave hotels and cave homes. You can even find old cave churches. Very cool.
7. Sleep under the stars. What? With the snakes and spiders and dingos?
Sleeping in ‘swag’ they call it. I had no idea what swag was but soon found out it was a sort of fat sleeping bag thing. While it can be a bit tricky to fall asleep when you’re wondering if you’re going to wake up with a snake in your sleeping bag or dingos steeling your shoes, it’s an amazing experience. The stars out here where there’s no light and no clouds, really are beautiful.
8. Pretend you’re in Wolf Creek
Those poor people. As if worrying about being killed by the heat, spiders, crocodiles, spiders, snakes and kangaroos wasn’t enough, you’ve got to worry about those pesky humans. We wanted to watch the film the night before we went on the road, but then some of the others in our group weren’t having it, so we watched a nice film, Red Dog, instead.
9. Watch the sun rise over Kings Canyon
King’s Canyon was probably my highlight. We started our hike at 4.30am to make sure we were done by 9am when they would have to close the walk due to the intense heat. Despite the obscenely early wake up call this did mean we got to watch the spectacular sunrise.
10. Watch the sun set over Uluru
Uluru’s sunset is so famous as the red centre actually glows red as the sun rises and sets. We had a few clouds hiding the sun meaning we didn’t get to see it in full glory but it was still beautiful. Don’t expect it to be peaceful though. We joined a spot with hoards of other groups with the same idea. Bring champagne.
So, the outback, how to do it? We actually did a tour with Topdeck on this occasion and that was great but Jono‘s previously been on a three day tour with Mulga’s of Uluru & King’s Canyon which cheaper and he highly recommends. Tours are good as it’s a really long way to drive (we did 1500km from Adelaide to Alice Springs) but they can be pricey and you spend a lot of time on the road so if you do your research and know what you want to see, book tours of those specifically and make your own way around.