There is a tropical side to Australia that makes it unique amongst its regions. The Tropic of Capricorn passes through the Northern Territory and allows you to see the more extreme tropical life that consequently exists. That wildlife and climate resemble Asia and it’s no surprise given Darwin’s proximity to its Asian neighbours a short distance to the north.
The ‘Top End’ is where you will find the world famous Australian crocodiles – all seven metres or more of them, and where you will find the beautiful Kakadu and Lichfield National Parks. It is here that a 4,500 km road trip towards Cairns to the east can begin!
First leaving Darwin and heading east, these stunning National Parks are areas of Australia that leave most baffled at their existence in such a savagely hot climate.
They are both teeming with lagoons, waterfalls and cliffs – a veritable oasis of fresh water that one can scarcely believe can exist in a land so unforgiving; and the rock shapes and waterfalls are never the same. Heading south staying on Stuart Highway towards Alice Springs, it’s difficult to believe that longer distances of arrow-straight roads can exist anywhere else in the world. This route takes you to the geographical heart of Australia, and to the famous sandstone rock formation of Uluru (Ayers Rock). It is an iconic Aboriginal landmark, and a world heritage site that is much more than just a visit. Surrounding it are paintings, waterholes and rock caves that make it a unique experience. It is a gem in the Australian treasure chest with a significance that shouldn’t be forgotten.
From Uluru you can head back towards Alice Springs and the turn right on the A6 towards the eventual destination of Cairns. About 200 kilometres from Darwin you come across the wonderful Mataranka thermal pools. Here is a place where you can feel both nature’s heat and its natural freshness with swim in the adjoining river among freshwater crocodiles. Although swimming with them is not advisable, it is possible and not forbidden, as freshwater crocodiles are immeasurably more docile than their saltwater cousins.
To continue along the road is sometimes like driving in a day dream, with the eternal plains on both sides and the roads continuing long and straight. If it is vast open space you crave, then this journey is what that gives, and it is not unusual to see bush fires from miles away or right near the road, as we did during our trip. Continuing along the road gives you an insight into the sheer size of what you imagine Australia to be. The horizon provides you with a view of thousands of acres of open land, and leaves you in no doubt that there is so much more beyond it.
Going through small mining towns like Mount Isa and onwards to Cairns also provides another picture of the progression of old Australia that starts in the rougher, rugged terrain of the Northern Territory and onward into the modern ocean life of Cairns in Queensland. It is a journey that can take one to four weeks, but one that once taken, will last forever in the memory.
Fwebeks is originally from Bridgetown and has lived and travelled in Asia and America as well as the other continents. He comes from a big family and parents that travelled widely, giving him the unquenchable need to see others and where they lived. He currently resides in Catalunya.