Australian outback towns
The best thing about taking this outback journey to remote towns gives you an experience of a lifetime that you would have not otherwise…
A journey of a lifetime to through Queensland and Northern Territory Outback
Cairns to Uluru
Taking a road trip from Cairns to Uluru 21 years ago certainly brings some eyebrows and who have thought that it would have been possible. Taking a road trip to the Australian Outback with other group of youths, with a mission of sharing the gospel has been and will be one of the greatest moments of my life that I will treasure in my lifetime. What a honour and what a thrill to be part of that team over 20 years ago. It was a mission that was worth it.
It was not until recently that I had a text message from an old friend asking me, if I was still in town. I was quite shocked and stoked to hear from him but not surprised as he always like to keep in touch over the years. Without hesitation, I immediately replied, YES, that I was still living in Cairns. He kindly asked me, if I wanted to go out for dinner that same evening and if I know any nice restaurants in town which I said, Yes. As I began to get ready to pick him up at his hotel, I was filled with excitement and at the same time, I was very anxious to know what he has been doing. Finally, I picked him up and we both went to a Chinese restaurant on Spence street. Keon Kong restaurant. This restaurant is not overly classy but it is nicely set out in a way where diners can go there either dressed casually or formally. Many times, I have been there, I found this restaurant, less noisy and as a peaceful environment. It is an ideal place to have a nice dinner and at the same time, having a conversation with friend and families without any disturbances. After ordering our meal, we started having our conversation while waiting for our dishes. I certainly had thousand questions on my mind to ask him but we both tried to work out how long since we have seen each other. To our surprise, it was 21 years ago and yes, time flies. As we continued our conversation over the dinner table and at the same time enjoying our meals, we both tried to reminisced about our past. Yes, we have changed over the years. To give a brief review of our past and present – I met Ross when he was our Youth Leader at a local SDA church in Cairns that I was attending. After leaving the church, he returned to study theology at the Avondale college in New South Wales. About half-way through his first year of study, he planned to go to Cambodia for 12 months only but ended up living over there for over 10 years. He then married a local lady over there and eventually took his young new family moved back to Australia. He told me what he has been doing since moving back to Australia. His wife is now a doctor here in Australia and Ross have changed course and is now a doctor here in Mackay.This has prompted me to write something about which I thought was worth sharing – A mission for a good course.
It was almost 21 years ago that a group of us – young Adventist youth from Cairns, decided to go on a mission to visit some of the indigenous communities in the Australia Outback of Tennant Creek. Our mission, headed by our Cairns Youth Leader – Ross McKenzie and Church Paster Lindsay. Our mission was to visit these remote communities not only sharing the gospel to them but spending some time with the kids in sharing fun educational activities that many of them don’t get to experience in their communities. With this in mind the Outback attractions in this part of the world to be seen and visited are historically unique, impressive and with cultural significance that are cannot be found anywhere in the world, including Uluru (previously known as Ayers Rock), Olgas and the Red Centre.
To accomplish this mission in the Australian Outback, we had to take a road trip right across the Rend Centre of Australia. For many of us, we were aware that it is an open wide space out there and one has to make an effort to go out to see it and to experience the vast country that we live in. For this, we need to go outdoors and hit the open road to know life is an adventure. Just enjoy the ride and at the same time we must embrace the detours.
The tour leaders put an lot of effort in planning and organising this return journey of a lifetime – Our return road trip need to be successful and safe. With carefully constructed travel itinerary, each segment of the journey was profoundly calculated – daily hours of driving, direction of route, departure and arrival times in each destination, places of accommodations and our three meals a day menu for each day. Each of us were given a detailed information on our daily tasks and roles for each day for the whole duration of our road trip. We were about to embark on this road trip that was to take us through some of the remote outback towns, cities, road houses and desert plains in Australia. This was a 6000km return trip by road starting from Cairns to Uluru passing through Townsville, Charters Tower, Hughenden, Richmond, Julia Creek, Cloncurry, Mt Isa, Camooweal, Barkly Homestead, Tennat Creek, Ti Tree, Alice Springs and many more along the way.
Prior to the day of travel, we had a group debrief and an itinerary to give us an clear indication of our journey. With anticipation, this was one of the highlight of my trip since my permanent move to Australia. I just couldn’t wait to hit the open road. Finally, the day had come where we had to meet in the front yard of the church in the early hours of the morning to pack all our travelling bags from suitcases, backpacks, sleeping bags, foods and other important travel accessories including first-aid kit, excess petrol and camping gears. Finally, we were on our way from the green hills and tropical low-land areas of Cairns to desert plains of Outback Queensland to Northern Territorys Red Centre..
Cairns to Charters Tower
Having to travel on a very tight travel schedule for our serious Australian outback adventure meant that stopping along the way was to kept to a mininal unless neccesary for use of bathrooms and lunch. Taking the A1 Bruce Hughway route along the Australia’s East Coast from Cairns to Townsville known as the “Great Green Way”, leaving the lush tropical rainforest and colourful reef of Cairns city in our mini-van, through sugarcane farmlands along the way to the township of Charters Tower via Innisfail. Tully, Cardwell, Ingham and Townsville city. They say, once you past the tiny town of Silkwood, just 20 kilometres south of Innisfail is where your adventure resumes. Without stopping along the way, we bypass some of the most pouplar highlights along the way including Babinda Boulders, Paronella Park, Mission Beach, Hinchinbrook Island off Cardwell and Magnetic Island off Townsville city. After having a quick stop-over for refreshment in Townsville, we went off the coast road and detour inland west to Charters Tower for our first night. We arrived late in the evening but had enough time to prepare our evening dinner before laying out our single camping style mattresses and sleeping bags on timber-style floor at a church hall. It was a real experience and challenge for many of us who never been away from our own comfort of home setting.
The drive from Townsville, following the A6 route – Flinders Highway to Charters Tower heading west is approximately just over an hour and half and is bitumen all the way. The township of Charters Tower is just close enough to a major city (Townsville) to make driving into ‘Outback Queensland’ feasible for any traveller. The first thing, I noticed after leaving Townsville and further along the way, the scenery began to change from lush tropical greenery to less greenery surroundings except dry, dusty and semi-arid lands.
Charters Tower to Mt Isa
With 8 hours and 15 mintues of drive ahead of us, the next day we had our Weetbix products early for breakfast, packed the mini-bus and just before the sunrise, we were already on the again driving along Flinders Highway continuing north-west to Mt Isa. passing through Torrens Creek, Prairie, Hughenden, Richmond and Julia Creek, where we stopped for refreshment and lunch. Without exploring any of these outback towns, we continued our road trip through long stretch of dry and arids lands to Mt Isa from Julia Creek. We past through the remote town of Cloncurry, without stopping for sightseeing continued along this wide open-space road and just hearing our own voices as entertainment on board. It seems like the road just went on and on for endless. However, I found that there is something relaxing about travelling by road through the Outback. It is simply the chance to stare out the window at the surroundings and not with unwavering concentration on the road ahead. Also, it is the remote landscapes themselves that are astounding to see, the sense of freedom that overcomes you. The journey like this allowed me the freedom to be in my own deep thoughts one moment and completely engaged.
We finally arrived in Mt Isa, the very heart of the Queensland Outback just after dark on a long lenghty road drive. Most of us were tired, sleepy and exhausted. However we managed to settle for our second night after dinner.
Mt Isa to Tennant Creek
The following day, after taking a group photo on the hill overlooking the township of Mt Isa, we left Mt Isa early and took an easy drive towards the Queensland and Northern Territory border. The drive from Mt Isa to Tennanet Creek was less than 7 hours drive and was not not long and strenuous drive like the day before. Having most of the outback roads with bitumen throughout the whole trip made it easier for us and other travellers on the road we passed by made it comfortable for us without any hiccups along the way. Like most outback areas throughout Australia, most of the areas have very little greenery vegetation except dry, desert land with very little trees around. At times, it can be sore to look out the window but at the same time, it is exciting and fascinating to know that the land we live in can be so different from one place to another and some places have extreme conditions.
Just within 2 hours of driving from Mt Isa across the deserted lands of western Queensland we reached the small country town of Camooweal which is known as the gateway to the “Northern Territory” and “Queensland”. Finally, we crossed the border to Northern Territory, leaving Queensland behind before reaching our final destination – Tennant Creek.
Arriving in this tiny town of Tennant Creek, we were located to our accommodation in a big shed with open spaces. We then, unpacked our van and selected various corner of the shed, setting up our sleeping accessories, making it our home for the next few days. I was quiet amaze to see how red the place was and the sunset was even more red. It was quiet fascinating and impressive to see in this remote part of the country. This tiny town of Tennant Creek is located in the Northern Territory of Australia. It is the seventh largest town in the Northern Territory and is located on the Stuart Highway, just south of the intersection with the western terminus of the Barkly Highway.
In the next few days, we were to go about our daily task to accomplish our mission – SHARING.. We went to few remote communties to entertain and involve children with various fun activities from arts and craft, sing-along to indoor games. It was interesting and challenging but end up having the best time I ever had spenting time with the children from all walks of life. We all simply had fun with lots of laughter. It was worth it. This journey had given me an opportunity to experience and see life from different perspective, the contrast between the lifestyle in the city and in remote areas – real life experience. that has blown my mind away.
Tennant Creek to Uluru
After spending a fabulous time with the children from remote communities in Tennant Creek, we felt that it was time to explore more of the remote area by visiting some of the iconic places in Northern Territory. We left Tennant Creek feeling satisfied that we have accomplished what we tried to achieved which was our main goal of the road trip. We came, we delivered and we accomplished. Just before dawn, we packed our van and within minutes we were on the road again heading towards Uluru, known in the past at Ayers Rock. Knowning that we were almost on a 10 hour road trip ahead of us, we made sure to spend little time in various places including Alice Springs. Though we spent little time in Alice, it welcome us with impressive views and rock formations to look at – Yes, we had time for photo opportunity.
We continued our road trip along this vast desert land and all we could see was dry arid land as far as our eyes could see. At times, it was impressive and amazing to look at but at times, it was unwelcoming because of its endless view of dry land on every window you looked out. It seems that there was no change of scenery. By the time, we arrived in Uluru, it was late night and some of us were totally exhausted, weak and tired. Some of us end up making outdoor sitting area as our campsite. and didn’t have to think twice where we were going to sleep. However, it was pleasantly comfortable probably been so tired.
The following day, after having our weetbix breakfast we headed to see the Rock and Olgas. What a thrill and honour to see this gigantic amazing rock appears right in the middle of nowhere. It was almost unbelievable to accept this and keeps you guessing and wondering how it all began. This place called Yulara certainly have something that many tourists come to see to tick it off their adventure bucket list and I certainly have. Yes, this area is home to one of Australias iconic rock – Uluru (Ayers Rock) which is captured throughout the world.
Below are variety of pictures of Uluru and the Olgas
What this whole journey that is totally impress me is the Rock. It is known that Uluru is The Australias iconic red centre and I have come to understand why. From what I saw in front of me, standing there and looking at this gigantic rock appearing in the middle of nowhere makes me understand why Uluru is one of the most impressive landmarks in Australia. This huge chuck of rock is located down towards the southwest corner of the Nothern Territory.
This rock is enormous and entends about 350 metres from its barren surrounds is relatively very impressive. It is very interesting that Ayers Rock extends even further than this amount below ground. There are other similar types of rocks to Ayers Rock – like the Olgas nearby that we visited and Mt Augustus in Western Australia. This World Heritage site, Ayers Rock changed its name to its traditional Aboriginal name – Uluru. History tells that Indigenous people lived in the area about 10,000 years ago. White men did not come onto the scene until the 1870s.
After this amazing experience, I cannot wait to explore some of the natural wonders that are lies ahead of me in varous part of the country.
Papua New Guinean living in Cairns, Australia. Weekend getaway adventurer and Free-Independent-Traveller (FIT). Lover of unique and exotic travel experiences with a touch of luxury. Follow me to my travel world, brining you closer to your destination.
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