It’s been four months. No rain, not even a hint of it with a single wisp of white cloud.
Temperatures so hot you could happily strip naked and walk around town, or fry an egg on your cars bonnet.
Endless miles of red dust, spinifex grass and grazing Brahman cattle.
Flies that constantly buzz around your face, flit up your nostrils and down your throat. Mozzies and midges that leave welts on your hardened skin. It’s a match for the brittle nails and dead hair ends.
It’s living on the edge of constant croc watch. Jumping and squirming every time you see a river miles away.
“Are there crocs in here?” is the first sentence that flies out of your mouth with each new body of water you come to. It’s got you freaked out so much, you even ask it when you’re near chlorinated swimming pools.
It’s green frogs flushed down toilet bowls after you’ve finished your business. It’s snakes curled up behind the cistern when you stumble in eyes half shut at 5am. It’s magic moments on Lake Argyle with freshwater crocodiles and not thinking twice about jumping in to swim with them.
It’s long road trips and hard core travel down gravel and corrugated roads. It’s miles of nothingness forcing you to pack and unpack almost nightly as you move from one town to the next on a journey that can last a couple of days.
A 600km stretch now seems like an afternoon drive.
No major supermarkets, Melbourne like cafes, just unchanging horizons.
A road house here and there to fill up on diesel that costs a fortune. You quickly lose your appetite with one glance at the shrivelled up sausage rolls lying in the oven.
Forget about decent coffee. It’s an urn with paper cups, a paddle pop stick and full-cream milk.
I’ve been laughed out of every establishment with my requests for gluten free, soy milk, and imagine – sugar free! Ain’t no raw cacao and almond milk in these parts.
You talk with passing travellers, who soon become comrades, about the marks of a good town approaching. It has Woolworths. If there’s Target, you’ve struck gold and a restaurant means the jackpot is yours. Why else did you think we stayed in Broome for five weeks? It had all of the above.
You can almost see the inhabitants of each caravan run down to the beach as soon as the red dirt they arrive on ends at the turquoise ocean. They’re desperate for the oasis after weeks of Outback driving.
“Look at this place!”
They yell beaming through the refreshing ocean breeze.
“It’s paradise. Boy after that journey, I just don’t want to leave here.” Many finish that with an exhausting statement, “I’m not sure I’m into 4WDriving much after all.”
It’s been four months and our journey through the Top End has come to an end.
Despite been driven mad a lot of the time by the toughness of it, and those damn flies, I’ve loved every minute. Because lying waiting for you beneath the tough exterior are endless horizons of exquisite beauty, ancient timelessness, vitality and perfection.
Secret nooks and crannies, waterfalls, gorges, stunning sunsets, and a thriving ecosystem hiding amongst the apparent lifelessness of the scrub.
The Top End has given birth to a deep love and connection within me for Australia. It’s possibly the part I’ll speak most about from this road trip in years to come.
This is my country. And I’m in love with it.
But, I sure am happy to be leaving the red dust, exhausting heat, and annoying flies behind to return to pristine beaches and green rolling hills.
Hang on a minute. This is Australia. There’s no escaping the damn flies.
As we come out of the wilderness, allow us to take you on a little journey of some of it’s exquisiteness with our images below.
This is the Top End of Australia. You’re mad if you miss it.