Journey into the Northern Territory Pt. 3: On the road to the Red Center

After leaving Kakadu (part 2) we spent the night in Nitmiluk National Park, but since I already wrote about that experience here and here, I’m going to continue part 3 of this series with our first night camping off the Stuart Highway. That night is where Australia subsequently decided to try and kill us.

We started out by stocking up on supplies in Katherine before heading out on the highway. The landscape is incredible in this part of the outback, but there are limited places to stop, so we didn’t stop again until we arrived in Daly Waters, where we filled up our tank and our bellies. Then, it was back on the road again until evening.

coming-storm
A coming storm over the Outback

We pulled into our rest area with the sun setting. There were only two other campers in the area and since we were getting to camp a little late, as usual, those other campers were already settled down for the night. We hurriedly set up our tent and made dinner. I must say I was truly impressed by the infrastructure in Australia for campers. The loads of free or minimally charged campsites located along major roadways were a godsend for people like us traveling on a budget.

After cleaning up we snuggled in to the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance. That is when the first tinges of fear set in and I could truly feel how vulnerable we could be in the tent. One of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan, does a bit where he jokes about getting murdered while camping. Strangely, when we were camping out in the woods I never had an inkling of worry. But being here just a few feet off the Stuart Highway, where anyone could pull up, I started to recall some of the stories I had heard about serial killers in the Outback, one of which was made into a horror film in the US, Wolf Creek.

I laid on our inflatable bed trying to relax as I failed to ignore the sporadic roar of cars and road trains flying by and the encroaching thunder. Just as I was drifting off to sleep I was awakened by the sound of a car approaching and parking right next to our tent. The vehicle’s headlights lit up our tent and I thought “this is it, this is how my life ends.” Once the sound of my beating heart quieted I realized that it was just someone stopping to use the bathroom.

At length I eventually got some sleep, only to be rudely awakened by an absolute downpour. The rain hitting our tent so hard that it was almost impossible to hear my wife talking to me. Fortunately for us none of the water was getting into the tent, but we didn’t know how long that would hold as the ground around us was pooling with water. We sat there praying that there would be a break in the rain, so we could break down our tent without getting absolutely drenched. We finally got a break in the storm and rushed out of the tent to see that it was essentially floating in about four inches of water. Needless to say, it was ridiculous, especially for the first rain we encountered on our trip. We sloshed through the water and dragged our tent to the picnic covering, where we could break it down with a little cover. Just as soon as we started breaking it down, the heavens opened again and doused us from head to toe. At long last we shoved everything into the car and climbed into the relative safety.

Campsite
The campsite in the morning
Campsite2
The four stones you can see mark the edge of our tent

Soaked, groggy from lack of sleep we decided to skip breakfast and just push on south and hopefully outrun the storm. We drove until the weather finally passed and the sun came out. We pulled off into another rest area to have lunch and set all of our equipment out to dry. As we dried in the sun and enjoyed our lunch we laughed at the exploits of our previous evening. We’ll stop there for today and we’ll pick it up next week with part 4.

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