The Red Centre: Driving Australia’s Outback

The Stuart Highway, central Australia.
The Stuart Highway, central Australia.

THE ROUTE:

Melbourne – Adelaide – Flinders Ranges – Coober Pedy – Alice Springs – Kings Canyon – Uluru – Coober Pedy – Adelaide – Melbourne.

DISTANCE TRAVELLED:

Approximately 6,200 kilometres.

 WILDLIFE SPOTTED:

Kangaroos, wallabies, emus, camels, one wedge-tailed eagle, falcons, bush-tailed possums, galahs, cockatoos, cockatiels, lizards and snakes. A plethora of flies.

Looking out over the 'moon plains', near Coober Pedy.
Looking out over the ‘moon plains’, near Coober Pedy.

 WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO DRIVE ACROSS A DESERT:

As you drive north on the Stuart Highway, the road gets straighter and the vegetation gets sparser. The earth is redder, the sun is stronger, and the petrol more expensive. A bend in the road becomes a novelty. There are more and more flies but less and less people. Out in the Australian desert is a whole lot of nothing.

The dusty road ahead stretches poker-straight all the way to the horizon. The rear view mirror reflects the same view behind me. A white glimmer of heat shimmers in the distance from which a black shape slowly emerges into sight. It’s a good two minutes of driving before I can figure out that I’m looking at a huge road train, and even longer until I am aware which side of the road it’s on. The desert road confuses my eyes. I’m constantly on the lookout for kangaroos in the surrounding bush – so much so that I start to see things.

A road house is a welcome break in the monotonous landscape. These places are marked on my map as if they are proper towns. In reality, it’s usually a few houses, a caravan park and a petrol station which sells a disappointing array of unhealthy and overpriced snacks. But when you are paying over $2 a litre for petrol, the idea of budgeting goes out the window somewhat.

I step out the car into the baking, dry heat and into a swarm of flies. They immediately land all over my face, which is decidedly unpleasant. After a quick pit stop to use the bathroom and purchase some of the most revolting coffee you could hope to find in Australia, it’s back on to the highway for another few hundred kilometres.

If this doesn’t sound fun, it actually was. The hardcore driving aside, I had outstanding company in my road trip buddies, a perfect soundtrack blasting out the speakers and a pretty awesome car to enjoy. Besides, when we finally reached Uluru in all its beauty and grandeur, I knew this rock was totally worth the 6,000km journey.

Uluru.
Uluru.
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