It was not the only dangerous thing to look out for on this road trip though as every waterhole, billabong and river held the threat of ‘salties’ (saltwater crocodiles) or according to the locals if you were lucky the non-human attacking ‘freshies’ (freshwater crocodiles). Either way I was determined not to go anywhere near the water let alone swim!
We left Darwin in our new-found friend, ‘Wicked Maureen’, heading in the direction of Litchfield and Kakadu National Park. Wicked Maureen provided us with transport, camping equipment, a comfy bed and a bright bodywork design that was photographed many times by other tourists. Her only faults were her gluttony for car oil and the occasional wobbly she threw when going over 90km/h. But we loved her anyway as it was a great way of getting around and stopping wherever we wanted!
Litchfield National Park was our first stop and first night in Wicked Maureen. The campsite was run on an honesty system so we popped our money into the box and went and found a spot close to the ablutions. It was here that we first sampled kangaroo meat. At 98% fat free, kangaroo steaks on the barbeque soon became a favourite! Leaving Litchfield, we stopped off at the Famous Jumping Crocs. It was fascinating to watch them jump their own body length out of the water to grab the piece of meat dangling in front of them and it definitely made us more certain to stay a safe distance away from the water. Next stop was Kakadu National Park which was filled with beautiful landscapes from billabongs and wetlands that were the home to colourful water lilies, birds and naturally crocodiles. We explored as much as possible on a 2WD and walked up to viewpoints, through forests to see some great rock art.
Not sick of national parks yet it was on to Nitmiluk National Park that is home to Edith Falls and Katherine Gorge. We had a good relaxing time at Edith Falls before going on an 8km walk around Katherine Gorge where we spotted our first wallaroo, with joey, hiding in the bushes. Leaving the national parks behind, we began our long and desolate drive to the Kimberley’s.
It was from here that you notice how isolated you feel on the long roads and hundreds of kilometres that separate each town (which were normally nothing more than a petrol station and roadhouse). We were pleased to have Wicked Maureen with a well-stocked food cupboard and water supply which allowed us to enjoy the intense quietness of the bush.
Our last night in the outback of the Kimberley region, we stayed at one of the free camps on the cliffs and watched the sun slowly set and cast a beautiful red tinge over the landscape. It would be our last night in such a setting as we headed further west to the sea. Gone was the red dust, and a chance to cool down in the ocean.
It felt like a different country when we got to the coast with the colourful wildflowers dotted everywhere. When we were not driving, the colour continued in the coral reefs of the Ningaloo, the blue and green ocean that contrasted against the white sand during the day was replaced by orange sunsets at dusk or the moon casting a yellow stairway mirage on the blackened water below.
The abundance of wildlife both in and out the water was just fantastic and we managed to see humpback whales breaching just off the coast and swim with a four metre wide manta ray which was total goose bump material. We saw more red and grey kangaroos than you could count and we were fortunate enough to see two echidnas crossing the road.
The three weeks on the road were an amazing experience and I still can’t believe we drove almost 6,000km from Darwin before reaching Perth.
5 uniquely Australian animals
Platypus – semi-aquatic and also one of the few venomous mammals. Together with the echidna, it is one of the five living species of mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young.
Echidna – also known as spiny anteaters, they also lay eggs and their young is called a puggle, which is kept in the mother’s pouch until it is developed.
Wallaroo – a blend of the words wallaby and kangaroo, a wallaroo is also halfway between a wallaby and a kangaroo in size.
Dingo – a wild dog and Australia’s biggest terrestrial predator.
Wombat – a short-legged muscular marsupial with a backwards-facing pouch so that when it digs it does not get dirt on its young. South African born Nicole Boys is an avid traveller and marketer who has lived in London for the past 10 years.