Darwin to Cairns in 5 days

“Reality quickly set in when I learnt it was 3000 km away: this was NOT going to be a breezy 2-day hitchhike!”

After spending a few days in Singapore to check out the sights, I flew into Darwin, the northernmost city in Australia. It’s hot and it’s as humid as humid gets. I flew here because it’s close to Asia, so flights are cheaper and I wanted to see a good slice of the outback along the way. Arriving on Dec 21, I had 4 days to make it to Cairns to meet my friend Alison for Christmas, and no solid plan on how to do it.

With flights to Cairns costing $800 this time of year, overland became my default plan of attack. However, reality quickly set it when I learnt it was nearly 3000 km away: this was NOT going to be a breezy 2-day hitchhike!

The impressive termite mounds on ‘the top end’ are some of the biggest in Australia.

Still optimistic, took the shuttle into Darwin to check out the scene. The next greyhound to the east coast was $350 and left in 5 hours, so I figured I’d give myself that much time to figure out an alternative. I strolled across the street to a hostel and checked out the message board…. Hmm, cheap car for sale…. rideshare with a yogi to Alice Springs…. Aha! “German looking for funny trip to the east coast.”  Half an hour later I was talking to him in the lobby:

“When do you wanna leave?” “As soon as possible.” “Great! I’ll pack my stuff and we’re outta here!”

And that my friends, is how I met Damien.

“Over the next 5 days we drove nearly a quarter of the way across Australia… past 10 foot tall termite mounds, chasing the shimmering mirage on the endless tarmac.”

With a cyclone coming in 2 days and storm clouds building, we hit the road in Damien’s 1990 4×4 Subaru wagon, nicknamed Mr Marty McFly. His rig was perfect. After 2 years in Australia, Damien had the perfect set-up: all the camping gear and even room for my surfboard (next to his boards!). Damien had driven around Australia… twice! He had used up the two allowed working holiday VISA’s and was milking the 3 month tourist VISA for a little bit more.

Mr Marty McFly

Cooling off from the midday heat.

Over the next 5 days we drove nearly a quarter of the way across Australia. It was all outback, all the time and it was HOT. There are changes in scenery, but essentially it’s all variations of the savannah theme. We would stop at swimming holes to cool off, or look for dead hollow trees to make a digeridoo with. This is actually harder than you’d think: the tree has to be the right width, straightness and length, and hollowed out by termites. The older the tree, the better, as the termites will have eaten a larger hole in the middle. Once, we spent over an hour digging up a dead tree’s roots in order to knock it down, only to saw it open and find out the hollow in the middle was still too small:( Hard work in the heat of the Australian summer!

Damien had an amazing homemade digeridoo. “I cut open over 100 trees to find this!”  The beeswax for the mouthpiece of course was from a real bees nest he found in the outback.

Damien checking for digeridoo material

To entertain myself, I started counting the roadkill on the side of the road. The record for dead kangaroos in one day was 70!

A big ‘red’ kangaroo. Look at the size of those feet!

The final tallies after 4 days:

  • 185 Kangaroos
  • 62 Birds
  • 8 Cows
  • 6 Lizards
  • 4 Feral Cats
  • 4 Possums
  • 3 Snakes
  • 3 Rabbits
  • and 68 unknown furry pancakes!

We drove past 10 foot tall termite mounds, chasing the shimmering mirage up ahead caused by the intense heat on the endless tarmac. Every night we had lightning storms, and if the sky turned clear, a lot of stars to look at.

One turnoff we did NOT want to miss.

Some local kids in Camooweal. The kangaroo statue has antlers (some local legend): the kids adamantly maintained that it comes alive at night and goes down to the river to drink…

Finally, on Christmas Day, we drove our sweaty butts into Cairns and I caught up with Alison! With the temperatures well above 30+ degC, it didn’t really feel like a proper Christmas mind you! You might remember Alison from such adventures as the RoadTrip to New Zealand back in September. She decided to come over for a week to check out tropical Oz during the holidays. We all enjoyed each others company for an orphans Xmas and the next day headed up to the Daintree coast for some Christmas camping!

Merry Xmas everyone, especially to my family back home. I definitely miss the snow at the farm, xcountry skiing, playing outdoor hockey and the whole Ruckle gang at the farm! It’s my first Xmas away from home and I don’t plan on having too many of these. My little sis Kaelyn was away too this year, performing in Bern, Germany. Thankfully I caught everyone at Gran’s and Mom and Dad are coming down to visit in a few weeks, so they’ll get their presents then…

Hope everyone had a good christmas, miss you!


[See all the pictures by clicking HERE]

Crossing from the Northern Territory into Queensland

Campsite near river in Camooweal, aka the middle of nowhere.

Cyclone clouds were building on the first night, making for a beautiful sunset

Damien checking out a swimming hole: this one was closed due to freshwater crocs moving in during the wet season flooding so we never swam too far from the edge!

Windmills are used to pump water from bores for livestock

This was the view for hours on end, NT.

Richmond, QLD, the location of cretaceous (~100 mya) marine fossil discoveries, such as the pliosaur.

Sunset on Xmas eve, one day out from the coast. Almost there!