This year, Dean’s wonderful mum Shirley came to visit us in Australia. For her, it was a big trip. Her first long-haul flight and her first time visiting the other side of the world. Obviously, we wanted her to have an amazing time, so as well as showing her around Darwin we decided we’d take a little drive.
Actually, it was a really long drive.
We went from Darwin to Uluru, just short of 2,000 kilometres (one way) taking in some of the best sights that the Northern Territory has to offer in just under a week. It was a whirlwind trip, but so incredible.
There might be a lot of information out there about ‘Outback Australia’, but those guidebooks often miss the things about those places that make them so worth seeing. So, I’m going to try and give you the information, and the inspiration, to see the best of the Northern Territory’s outback sights.
Imagine you’ve been sitting in a car for 10 straight hours. Maybe you’re driving, maybe you’ve just been staring out the window at the long straight roads for so long it feels like a nightmare. The sun has beaten down all day, it’s driving you into the ground. Outside there’s nothing but wide empty lands as far as the horizon.
Suddenly you turn the corner and the landscape has changed. It’s alien, with enormous boulders spotted across the ground. Some of them are small, others as big as your car. It’s enough to take your breath away.
Welcome to the Devils Marbles.
Located more than 1,000km from Darwin, the Devils Marbles is a natural rock formation that for many years has been considered culturally and spiritually significant by local Aboriginal people. It is now a conservation reserve, where you can go and experience the unique wonder of the marbles, and the landscape.
We camped at the Devils Marbles on our first night, wandering in amongst them as the sun was setting. As it sinks further in the sky, it lights the rocks up blood red. They hold the heat as well, long after the light is gone. The real magic happens later, when all the light is gone. With no towns for a hundred kilometres, there’s no better place to see the galaxy spread out above you. Thousands of little lights shine down, shooting stars rain and satellites float past unaware of our wonder at watching them.
What You Should Know About The Devils Marbles
- Camping at the Devils Marbles is $3.30/pp for each night. You pay it with an honour system using envelopes at the front of the camp site, and it helps support keeping this amazing sight open to the public.
- There are fire places at the Devils Marbles, but it can get very windy there are certain times of the year. I wouldn’t rely on a campfire to cook. If it isn’t windy, you’ll need to bring your own wood to have a fire.
- You have to bring all your water with you at the Devils Marbles. There isn’t a tap, so you need to be entirely self reliant. Fill up your water on the way at Tennant Creek, which is around 100km before the Devils Marbles from Darwin.
It look us two more days to get to Kata Tjuta. We camped at Alice Springs one night, and then drove onwards to Yulara the next day. It’s only around 500km from Alice Springs to Yulara, so we arrived with enough time to still do something in the day. We decided to explore Kata Tjuta.
Kata Tjuta is the less-known neighbour of Uluru. Most people think that Uluru is the big rock in the middle of the desert, and the only thing seeing in the area. Actually Kata Tjuta is just next door, a 50km drive from the ‘big event’. Essentially, Kata Tjuta is a series of enormous domes, some 36 in total. There are a few walks you can do around them, but we decided to walk part of the Valley of the Winds walk, to the Karingana lookout.
Pulling up to Kata Tjuta, it looks like something out of a dream. An enormous series of red domes rising from the landscape, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. The sun is so bright, but the rocks stand out just as much. When we start on the trail, it seems like we’ll be walking in the sun forever, and it’s enough to make you sweat. But ahead there’s a valley, and the promise of shade.
Inside the Valley of the Winds, and ahead of the crowds, it’s a different world. The walls tower above you, making you feel insignificant and unimportant. They have stood long before you, and will stand long after. Wind doesn’t whistle as I imagined it would. Instead there’s a stillness here that makes everything you say echo, bouncing back to you like a repeat of your wonder. It’s magic by another name.
What You Should Know About Kata Tjuta
- In order to get to Kata Tjuta, you’ll need to be inside the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. There is an entry fee of $25/person that gives you access to the part for three days. In the end, Dean and I decided to get a $65 annual vehicle pass because our car is registered in the NT, and with three people in the car it was cheaper.
- There are places along the trail to get water, but you should bring your own bottle as they are far apart.
- Wear good shoes if you’re planning to do this walk, preferably with quite good grip on the bottom. Parts of the walk are rocky and uneven, while other parts are quite steep. Either way, you’ll be glad you have good shoes.
Keep an eye out for the next part, when we explore Uluru!
This post originally appeared on BarefootBeachBlonde.com, the pre-evolved version of Maps And Mandalas. I’ve republished it here with its original date because I love it that much.