And so it comes to pass that in the early afternoon of December the 23rd, after 2,500 km of all kinds of roads (from “meh” to terrible), I finally reach Darwin. Been a while! The city looks almost exactly as I remember it, albeit noticeably more cloudy, hot and humid. The wet season is in full swing here, this far north, and hopefully I'll get to witness some of the numerous thunderstorms that the region is so famous for.
The thing is with working on the road is that you need the good ol' Internet. Which, of course, can only come from the mobile network; satellite options are still ridiculously expensive and slow. And when it comes to mobile coverage, Telstra is usually the best, even if in some places Optus takes the upper hand. I've heard about their “regional hub” program, and while studying their coverage map, I was pleasantly surprised to see a spot at the Kings Canyon Resort. Perfect, thought I! Right next to one of the most-known wonders of the MacDonnell Rages, which I still haven't seen yet throughout my journeys! A perfect opportunity from every possible angle.
On Tuesday evening, I suddenly realise that I could go and see the Fields of Light, while I'm here. In case you're reading this and the link died, it's a project by some artist whose name now escapes me, and it consists of a huge (three football fields) area covered with LED lights, slightly raised above ground and changing colours slowly. Add to that the starry sky on top of you, and you could get yourself quite an experience.
The night between Friday and Saturday sees me at some rest stop between Barmera and Burra. Well, it could have seen me, if it wasn't so dark and dusty. The sky is completely overcast, and there's a strange suspension of very fine dust in the air, which I can't really smell, but I can see it in the beam of my torch everywhere I go. It's quite windy, too, and very humid. Interesting combination of the elements. During the night it rains a bit, but the morning is nice and sunny and calm.
The sunrise is as spectacular as the sunset before it; but when I check the coolant level, I barely find any. Looks like the bone-shaking corrugations of the Rainbow Valley did their nasty job, so I use my last remaining bottle of coolant to top it up. I'm almost home now anyway, aren't I?
When I wake up and eat my breakfast, I still have no idea whether the mouse is still in the car or not. Just in case, I decide to visit a Bunnings in Alice Springs and buy a mouse trap or two – which is where I'm going anyway.
The morning in the Wolfe Creek is warm, quiet and sunny. It's “summer” up here in the North, after all, and it's going to stay like this for the next few months. Not for me, though; my journey takes me away from these lands of spinifex and boabs and back to the winterlands.
I start my day at 6 in the morning (NT time? WA time? Who knows?) to drive a little further into the park and take another scenic walk, called Jarnem. No one’s around at this early hour, except for a couple of tradies who do some maintenance work at the campground.
In the morning I leave The Bungles: there’s still plenty to see outside this undoubtedly phenomenal place. On my way out I meet another 5 or 10 cars going in: poor people are driving straight into the morning sun and dust. It’s so much more rewarding to travel this road eastwards a bit later in the day, like I did.
It still drizzles in the morning, and I even see an occasional lightning in the distance as I get up and start my morning routine. It’s not as cold as I thought it would be at this time of year. However, I still decide to cancel my second visit to the Breakaways: it’s probably pointless to try and do good photography of that particular place when it rains.
I start my day very early, before dawn; but, surprisingly enough, I slept excellent and didn't get a single drop of rain: either it passed me by or didn't start at all. Also, I firmly decide to implement the itinerary change I came up with last night.
Too humid for a good sleep, so I don't get much. After a quick shower, where I wash off the morning sweat (it instantly reappears), we pack up and move on to the Litchfield National Park. From the north it can be reached via dirt track (which we're using right now), or via proper sealed road from the east (which we'll use later). Either way, the park and its rainforest are all around us.
After having an excellent sleep in Kununurra, we quickly pack up (it takes less and less time these days: we're getting used to the moves) and take off. Kununurra is the last town in Western Australia; ahead lies the Northern Territory, with its own towns, roads and other quirky little things.
As I've already mentioned, there's another famous place next to the world-famous Uluru, and it's called Kata Tjuta. It means “many heads” in Aboriginal language, which sums up its appearance pretty good. As opposed to a monolith which is Uluru, Kata Tjuta is a whole set of enormous sandstone boulders, looming up quite impressively on the horizon. This is where I'm going today.
In the morning, as soon as I reach Marla, I make a refuel stop. My Prado, thankfully, has two fuel tanks 90 litres each, but even they tend to run out every so often. Diesel prices bite a little: $1.63 per litre, compared to about $1.20 in Adelaide. Oh well. A beggar's choice.