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Australian Outback Trip: from Darwin to Alice Springs and Devils Marbles

One of the most beautiful and interesting places of the gigantic Australian country is the Uluru or Ayers Rock, a sacred rock for the aborigines that is in the middle of the desert as if it emerged from nowhere. It is a very visited place and most tourists arrive there by plane from other parts of the country. But we, who are "crazy" lovers of road trips, decided to make this route by car. A trip by car for the Australian outback that would take us from Kakadu, in the north of Australia, to the very center of the country. A total of 1,500 kilometers of the outback.

The City of Darwin photo: skyticket.com

We rent a car in Darwin, where we had arrived by plane from Cairns, on the Australian east side, after a diving cruise on the great barrier reef. We had 11 days ahead to travel north and the isolated and inhospitable center of the country before returning the rental car at the Ayers Rock airport.

Before starting the journey inland, we visit the Litchfield National Park, famous for its giant termite mounds and Kakadu National Park. From the latter, we began our 3-day adventure through the infinite landscapes and with hardly any towns from the outback to Alice Springs.

Alice Springs Australia
Alice Springs Australia

First stage: from Kakadu National Park to Katherine

This first day we travel along a quite monotonous and boring stretch of road, with a landscape covered in low shrubbery and small trees half-burned due to the controlled burning done by the aborigines. Almost the entire route is covered with gray ashes and skeletons of trees. It is not a beautiful landscape, nor the idyllic image of a road in the middle of the desert. We do not see a soul in the 340 kilometers separating Katherine from Kakadu, not even a kangaroo.

 Kakadu National Park
Kakadu National Park


It is a small town of 7,000 inhabitants, and according to the guides, it is interesting for some gorges that can be traveled by boat. We went up there, but the whole area seems depressing. The bathing area of the river is not pleasant at all, despite the fact that with 40 degrees it would have been good for a bath almost anywhere.

The boat trip through the gorges was very expensive, like, like almost everything in Australia and we did not think it was worth paying that price, considering that the landscape around us was nothing special. The gorges and the river are 30 minutes from the town. In Katherine there is nothing else to do, it is the last place on earth I would like to live ... "a hellish heat in one of the most boring places in the world" and as I wrote that day in my travel notebook. The accommodation in Katherine is reduced to a handful of motels with exorbitant prices for the quality they offer (more than 100-150 Australian dollars a night) and a rather expensive backpacker hostel, but that we had no choice but to accept if we did not want to sleep in the car. At least it had a pool.

After one night we were bitten by all the bugs in the area, we followed our route to the south.

Katherine Gorge
Katherine Gorge photo: foodfuntravel.com

Second stage: from Katherine to Tennant Creek

650 kilometers separate these two locations, without any other town in between.

Throughout the tour, there are 3 points to make a stop, with a gas station and small shops where they sell a little of everything. But it is better to get out well-fueled Katherine gasoline because of the price of fuel at these gas stations in quite expensive.

The road is an infinite straight, with bushes on both sides and trees that are becoming increasingly low, the landscape is changing little by little.

As soon as we come across cars, one has to remind oneself that one is driving on the left because one loses perspective by going alone on the road for so many kilometers!

We come across many " truck-trains", huge vehicles that carry 3 or 4 trailers, loaded with all kinds of merchandise. They look like trains, but by road, it is a curious way to transport large quantities of goods through these isolated roads.

Truck Trains
Truck Trains

The Devils Marbles

The "Devil's Marbles" or "Karlu Karlu" as the aborigines call them are gigantic granite balls formed by erosion over thousands of years. It is a sacred area for the aborigines.

There is a well-marked and very easy route to travel around the area and see these strange and enormous formations up close. It is a curious visit and the landscape is quite beautiful.

We leave the place to continue touring a landscape similar to the last 1,000 kilometers, shrubs and more bushes. During the whole tour, we have hardly seen wildlife, some kangaroo isolated in the distance and little else. So far our image of what the Australian outback was has little to do with reality.

The Devil's Marbles
The Devil's Marbles

And we arrived in Alice Springs, the return to civilization. The town is quite large (around 28,000 inhabitants), especially compared to the towns we have seen the last few days. It is completely destined to tourism with dozens of hotels, restaurants, and shops. From here depart many organized trips to the Uluru. We spent one night in the town, and the next day we followed our route to the Uluru or Ayers Rock, passing before another interesting place, Kings Canyon ... but that is another story.

Alice  Springs
Alice Springs