After leaving Ayers Rock early in the morning, we make it back to Alice Springs (which we like slightly more the second time around) by nightfall. What’s in between? Nothing really. Eight hours of driving, flat dessert with a bit of bush, lot’s of red dirt and one or two “roadhouses” to fuel up and have something to eat or drink.
The next morning we switch campers, get rid of the four wheel drive and rent a small Toyota van for our last three weeks in Australia. Even though it’ll be a bit more cramped again, I’m happy to return our “box on wheels”. It really was poorly thought out, old and used unbelievable amounts of gas. The Toyota is much like the Jucy campervan we had in Queensland, the kids sleep under the roof, while Anna and I make our bed (thin mattress) below them every night.
From Alice Springs we head straight out on the only highway crossing Australia south-to-north, straight through the middle. We drive about six hours and then pull in at a free camping spot in the middle of nowhere, just before the sun sets. Driving at night is far too dangerous due to animals and drunk locals on the road. Only the road trains (with their steel bars on the front) don’t seem to mind. We’re told they are so heavy that they don’t stand a chance to brake for an animal and just drive straight “through” them … I’m not sure what they do with drunk locals.
Our neighbors invite us over to their campfire , we watch the sunset together and have (yet another) nice chat with a bunch of Australian retirees (who seem to make up about 99% of the camping population).
The next morning it’s back in the car and more of the same. Hour after hour after hour … low bushland, red dirt and the occasional dead cow or kangaroo by the wayside. We stop to stretch our legs at the Devils Marbles (huge round boulders), climb on a few of them, and then climb back into the van again.
By nightfall we’re at the famous Daly Waters Pub, apparently the oldest one in the outback and so well described in Bill Bryson’s book “In a Sunburned Country”. We have their famous “Beef and Barra” (basically the local version of Surf and Turf) and listen to live Australian Folk music until late at night … the kids have a blast.
Tomorrow we’ll stop at some local hot springs, before driving the rest of the way to Katherine Gorge National Park. Except for the occasional (normal) meltdown, the kids really handled the four days in the car amazingly well. Lara read a lot of Harry Potter to Finn, both did some school work … and significantly improved their “Temple Run”skills on the iPad.
A few more pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uwefassnacht/sets/72157634291165203