Oldies at Large – Icons of the Northern Territory

Dawn camoowealThe vast region of the Northern Territory, which is by no means the largest sector of Australia, but certainly one of the countries foremost frontiers and it has within its boundaries iconic destinations. There are many, indeed everyone has an opinion but there are some that should be on every traveller’s list of ‘Musts’. Some of these icons have faded, others have grown to become gems and so many are truly very much still a magnificent wilderness.

I was surprised at how few people take that left turn out of Katherine to venture into the NW the Territory and onto Western Australia. I was surprised at how much Alice Springs has blossomed and surprised at the growth of Katherine over the last twenty-five years. Once a sleepy little village it is now a busy community with all the good, the bad and a thread of the ugly.

Cloncurry viewOne thing notable about the region is that they appreciate and provide for the freecamper all along the Stuart Highway and the Victoria Highway west, and it is really a commendable thing. The trouble they have taken attracts many travellers into what really is the red heart of the country should be an example to the other States in hospitality and concern for the welfare of this unique demographic.

The region around Katherine has some wonderful gems. It is the thermal region after all. Sitting on the western edge of the vast limestone subterranean plateau, one that stretches onto the eastern seaboard of Queensland, it is dotted with hot springs that are within themselves icons. There is of course the old favourite Mataranka bordering on the Elsey National Park. Its beauty is one that is fading along with the replica of the purpose built homestead of ‘We of the Never Never’ screen set (Available in e-book for free HERE). It was built for the film but its glory is fading. The film and the story though will never fade. Gone are the wonderful gunya’s created for the film and the grass is more feted moss than green blade.

The waters are still sparkling, warm and inviting beyond description but it is the dry season. While you could see the beauty of a season other than the Big Wet, I couldn’t help wishing that the rain would come and just… well… settle the dust some. I wanted to wash away the dusty evidence of what seemed to be neglect.

Backpackers and travellers were everywhere and the attraction now seems to be the caravan park, and its newer café and bar but I longed for the isolated beauty it once had some twenty-five years ago. Time and commerce has not treated it well.

We only had time to explore some of the thermal pools and amongst these have emerged some contenders for the crown. Bitter Springs for one, just a few kilometres north of its more famed cousin, Bitter Springs will come to shine on her own one day. The public springs when you take that western road out of Katherine will also find their footing in time. One thing about these natural wonders is that they definitely seem to attract caravan parks … and I guess so they should.

Then there is Kakadu … there simply is no place to begin in describing Kakadu, and there is no end. It is as beautiful and as remote as ever and it is nothing short of magnificent and an iconic ‘Must’ regardless of the season. Kakadu has always held a special place in my heart and one day I will find the words to do it justice. The region featured largely in my novel ‘Spirit of the Rocks’ of the Dreaming Series and still it pulls at my heart-strings. I will return to Kakadu in another time, another space but I will return.

Alice Springs I have mentioned before and it is now a wonderfully interesting little town. It has grown and become a gem in its own right and we are looking forward to revisiting its little charming idiosyncrasies again in time.

Etuta MountainAnother icon of the Red Centre is the vast and mysterious Macdonnell Ranges, a million hidden gorges along with those well-famed handful in the Western Arm of the range. A future trip we have on the back burner is to explore the gorges of the Macodonnel Ranges from East to West and on this trip around we found the topographical maps to do just that … now for the planning and I know this adventure is going to come together in pieces over any number of years… the region is vast and its promise great.

We didn’t get down as far as Uluru this time, definitely an icon and one every Aussie should visit. They don’t recommend climbing Uluru anymore, mostly because of the over-enthusiastic Asian tourist usually gallop up the rock and then have an inconvenient heart attack. We climbed the rock on our first visit, as do our First Nation friends in times of ceremony and rite and simply out of a need to experience what is a premier outlook. It is something that should be respected and there is simply nothing like the view of the red heart of Australia like that from the crown of Uluru. It is a view every Aussie should one day stand, respectfully and appreciate.

Main marblesWe did explore some of the paths around the Devils Marbles this time and they are a wonder to see. Karlu Karlu, by its Aboriginal name, is truly a place of Legend and Lore. A meeting place of the tribes in an age past and a sacred place of the spirit of the land, it is something that sits quietly deep within your thoughts. It is something mysterious, inviting and full of the wonder of its creation.

Not least of all in a list of icons of the Territory is the landscape. It lives, breathes with an ancient breath and you but wonder at the song of its creation. It is truly a beautiful and remote corner of the world … endless in its horizons, breathless in its vastness. I know it will draw us back time and again and I am looking forward to each anticipated visit into the wonders of the Central Red Deserts of the Territory, which are really no desert at all.

Travel Well

CoversYou can explore the Lore and Legends of ancient worlds in her stories.
The Spirit Children series, ‘Lands Edge’ Book 1, will take you into the heart of Sydney on an adventure into legend and time. ‘Through other Eyes’ Book 2, will take you deep into the histories of the Jenolan Caves. It has been newly released and is available now at Amazon.com

Explore contemporary tales of the ancient Kadaitcha, or the Featherfoot of a truly unique Lore in ‘The Dreaming Series’.
Or enjoy some of her lively travelogues and tales of past true life travel adventures, published in both e-book and print under Around the Campfires and Oldies at Large.

You will find her on Facebook where you too can become part of the adventure. You never know… you might just catch up with her and The Man around the ridges somewhere.


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