6 Reasons You Should Go To Outback Australia Now
Red sand, azure skies and a vast landscape.
Consider yourself an adventurous traveller? Do you treat your passport, with its pages full of stamps from out-of-the-way places, like a badge of honour? Know the capital city of Guatamala and the name of that must-visit bar in Barcelona? If you’re truly an intrepid traveller, then there’s one rather large destination that you need to put on your 2015 “to do” list: outback Australia. While you may think it’s a place best left to grey nomads and their caravans, here are six reasons why you should go there now.
#1 The quintessential road trip
Read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and then borrow or hire a four-wheel-drive for the road trip of a lifetime. The saying goes that it’s about the journey, not the destination and we’ll vouch for that – with a vehicle full of mates, the tunes pumped up and the windows wound down, gazing across the vast, red plains of Australia can really make life’s problems seem pretty insignificant. Our country is huge! And in its nothingness, there’s kangaroos, emus, goannas, dingoes and wild camels a plenty wandering in plain sight. You’ll also come across some of the quaintest, most unique little towns or pubs that you’ve never heard of. It’s that first surreal beer in a lonely pub with a stuffed crocodile above the bar after a three hour drive along a road with no other buildings in sight that makes the long drive worth it.
#2 Speaking of pubs…
The Mungerannie Hotel on the Birdsville track, SA, has plaits of human hair hanging from the roof above the bar, while the Cameron Corner Store is the watering hole smack bang at the intersection of three states. Broken Hill’s Mario’s Palace, NSW, the rest stop for our favourite Priscilla drag queens, is Australia’s version of the Sistine Chapel with its entire insides classically painted and the Mt Dare Hotel, SA, is a pub in a shed in a desert. In Bedourie, QLD, the pub dog, Whiskey, will lie at your feet as you swig your beer at the bar and at the Daley Waters pub, NT, prepare to be challenged to a game of pool with raucous cowboys. Stepping into an outback pub is like stepping into an alternate universe, but always in a good way. The locals will tell yarns about catching wild bulls or giant crocs and there’ll be photos on the walls to prove it. Once the grey nomads retire to their vans, the younger ‘ringers’ will be ready to party.
#3 The events
Yabbie races, rodeos, camel races and music festivals are all regular features on any outback town’s events calendar and attract workers from surrounding properties up to hundreds of kilometres away. If you can time your trip with an event, you’ll meet tonnes of interesting people, have loads of laughs at the absurdity of whatever “sport” is happening and be able to tell your mates back home that you won a thousand bucks because you backed the winning yabbie, pig, camel, horse or whatever else is racing that day. Rodeos are held in almost every outback town at different times of the year and as the most dangerous sports around, they’re amazing to watch. If you think you’re tough, wait ‘til you see some of these cowboys. Many rodeos will let travellers ride if they’re brave enough. For a real thrill, jump on a bull and see if you can last the eight seconds it takes to qualify for a score.
#4 The photo opportunities
Red sand, azure skies and the vast, flat landscape of the desert makes for some utterly gorgeous photos, as does the dramatic rocky outcrops and waterfalls of Kakadu and the Kimberleys. That’s not to mention the sunsets, which are second to none. Outback Queensland is affectionately known as “big sky country” for its panoramic landscapes undisturbed by trees or buildings, plus any two sunrises or sunsets are never alike. Right now, central Australia is receiving more rain than it’s had in years so will soon be covered in wildflowers.
#5 The people
Always smiling and always up for a chat, the people of the outback come from all walks of life and from all over the world. There’s the young “ringers”, or station hands, who are tonnes of fun and always up for a laugh, many of who are from the cities and coast and have fallen in love with the more relaxed outdoor lifestyle. There’s quite a few backpackers working in towns and on properties for three months to earn their second year working holiday visa – part of the government’s attempt to stimulate rural economies and workforces. There’s also the older generation bushies, who are some of the wisest people in the world and have some unbelievable stories of outback life a few decades ago, in the 45-degree days before air-conditioning. The outback is much more diverse and cultural than people imagine, which is a nice surprise once you’re actually there having a profound conversation with someone you never thought you’d meet the likes of.
#6 Experiencing the lifestyle
Outback Australia is as much like a different country as an actual different country. For one, the language is different – “catch ya directly” (pronounced “drekly”) can be translated as “see you soon”, for example. Then there’s the logistics. For instance, in Birdsville, a town of about 100 people in far southwest Queensland, where the closest supermarket is 700 kilometres away, a road train delivers fresh food to the pub and general store once a fortnight from Adelaide, 1200 kilometres away. This means that at the end of the fortnight things like eggs, fruit, veggies and fresh milk may be hard to come by. Furthermore, mobile service and internet access are, unfortunately, worse than many third world countries and driving on a dirt road requires as much concentration as driving on the “wrong” side of the road in somewhere like the United States. But to see it is to believe it and considering that outback Australia is responsible for much of our nation’s GDP, as well as our food supply, it’s almost our responsibility to see what life is like in our own backyard. When it comes to travel, getting off the beaten track is always rewarding, especially if the alternate track is a red dirt road.
(All images are author’s own)