When I went south on the Greyhound bus via the Stuart Highway, much of the driving was after dark. It was amazing how many kangaroos and wallabies were grazing on the highway shoulders. It is no surprise that you see many road kills on and near the highway during the day. The bus only had to slam on its brakes once. The Royal Automobile Association (RAA) warns on its strip maps: "Caution - Straying animals present a hazard, particularly if travelling at night. For maximum safety, restrict driving to daylight hours." Examples of road kill that I saw between Darwin and Alice Springs besides kangaroos and wallabies included a feral hog and cow. One good thing to do during the day is to watch for circling birds. They usually indicate a road kill.
. . . and the open road.
For those not used to the outback, driving can be quite a daunting task. The distances in Northern Territory are huge and quite often it is a long way between fueling points, however the NT government has been mindful and displays signs advising distances to the next available fuel stop. You also need to consider the price of fuel in comparison to other parts of Australia. We travelled in July 2012 and paid as much as $1.68 per litre unleaded fuel. One week earlier in Melbourne I had paid $1.19 per litre. There is a NT fuel watch web site, but sadly links appear to be broken at the time of writing this travel warning. I did read several weeks ago that the town of Katherine has slightly cheaper fuel prices than Darwin and the most expensive shown on the site was over $2.00 per litre at Kings Canyon. Discount coupons may not be acceptable, so suggest you check prices before filling up in the full knowledge that there may be little of no choice in the area of purchase. Also note that fuel may not be available 24/7 in all areas.
The road trains of northern Australia are huge and do take some getting used to from a motorists perspective. Allow plenty of overtaking room if you intend passing one of the huge monsters of the open road. The 2 as photographed are only the 3 trailers - we did see on the open road prime mover plus 4 trailers and yes overtaking takes plenty of room. If you are hesitant and don't want to overtake, I strongly suggest you should keep a long distance between yourself and the road train and allow others who have more driving experience to overtake you before they overtake the road train - please show consideration to other road users.
The speed limit in NT is now 110 km/per hour unless otherwise posted. Sections of the Stuart Highway linking Darwin and Alice Springs are 130 km. If you are not used to driving at that speed, allow others the courtesy of the road and pull over as far as possible while still staying on the solid road surface to let other vehicles pass in safety.
Don't forget to take a container of water just in case you do unfortunately break down and also be aware that in many areas of NT there is no mobile (cell) phone coverage. If you intend driving in remote areas, it is strongly suggested that you take a fully charged satellite phone AND a CB radio. Spare fan belts and tyres are a must carry in the outback.
Enjoy the roads, but please be very careful.
There is a camper rental company that operates in a number of countries - Wicked Campers. Their camper vans are usually noticed by the garish and unusual sign writing plastered all over the sides and back of their vehicles.
Whilst it is a lot of fun to read all that is on offer, it can be quite distracting if you read the van while travelling beside one of more on the open road.
The third last photo shows what can happen if you fail to take notice of my advise - LOL
- and the second last gives a not-too-gentle warning to those who try and steal. (sorry if the sticker may offend). The last photo was a quick snap when the van had passed me.
Please be very careful where you swim - and be particularly careful in ALL coastal waters and waterways. Yes the water may look very inviting in the hot weather, but lurking just below the surface and watching out of its next meal may be a 'saltie' as the salt water crocodiles of northern Australia are called.
OK lets be perfectly honest. Very few tourists are ever likely to see crocodiles in the wild and certainly not up close and as personal as you can be to a 5 metre croc with large teeth – they really are not a cuddly type of animal! They are a killing machine that has not changed much since the days of the dinosaurs, around 300 millions years ago and quite frankly the best and safest place to see crocs is in zoos and the like. As was explained to us in a wildlife park in Queensland, in about 80% of the crocodile/people encounters where people are injured/killed, alcohol is involved – and as the crocs don’t drink grog, it’s drunken guys – mostly guys – who are half or fully tanked and reckon they are unkillable and able to wrestle crocs like they saw in Crocodile Dundee and other works of fiction. No doubt ‘egged’ on by their drunken mates. Perhaps we should applaud the crocs for ridding the earth of some of our refuse.
Nature has evolved the crocodile into a very efficient killing machine that can be in excess of 6 metres in length - don't mess with crocs unless you want to be part of the food chain.
So wher can you swim in safety - hotel or public swimming pools and some of the plunge pools in National Parks.
You know there is nothing like being in the "outback" of Australia. When travelling the thought of accidents are really something that we dont want to think of , but, can happen anywhere and at anytime. I have just seen this first hand happen to a friend in the Territory.
The remoteness of the "outback" can be found in any state where you find yourself long distances from towns and you are the only person for hundreds of miles.
When travelling in Australia Always make sure that you have the adequate Travel insurance for your needs. Places like most of the Northern Territory are extremely isolated and any accident occuring out here is a "real worry". This is the "outback" , and once out of built up areas, usually..You are on your own Travelling a lot by car in Australia many foreign travellers that I have spoken with give no thought at all to the isolation. Due to its vastness and the extreme isolation sometimes communication in lots of areas does not exist. Distances between destinations can also be vast. So, it is just not just a matter of picking up the phone. In outlying and remote locations the only form of help is the Flying Doctor" and these can take some time depending on where they are flying from.Most towns have a local ambulance services along with good medical facilities.But they may be a long way off. This form of accident transportation for treatment can have extremely large costs involved.Hospital treatment along with doctors or surgeons also carry large costs.
Cover yourself for these possibilities. ALL medical costs, especially accident transportation and repatriation are essential.
(I would not be without these insurance covers when travelling abroard)..
Always carry sufficient water in your vehicle. (I carry 40 litres)
Do not walk in the bush without boots on.
Always tell friends where you are going, and when you expect to arrive.
Take advice of local residents as to any dangers.
Get advice of road conditions on your itinerary.
Never be without water out here in the territory!. Alaways make sure when you are "out and about" especially in unpopulated areas to be without water can be disasterous. There are many wonderful National Parks in the Territory to explore and enjoy and all are really in out of the way places. The temperatures up here even in the wintertime are hot...but because it gets so hot it is easy to dehydrate if not replacing lost fluids.
Please take notice of local advice and also of warning or danger signs here.. they mean what they say.
When driving on these wide open roads in outback Australia and also here in the Northern Territory "Beware" of RoadTrains.. These RoadTrains can be extremely dangerous going either way...Passing you at speed can shower your car with flying stones off the many wheels. Some of the enormous trucks can be pulling as many as five trailers with over 70 wheels...most people talk of large trailers and call them 18 wheelers...These can have more than 70...amazing.They also travel at high speeds and to pass one means really high speed !!!
Trying to pass these vehicle takes a long time and you will need a lot of clear road to do so. Recently I did a road trip to the Gulf in Northern Queensland from Sydney , a trip of over 5,000 kilometers .Before I left on this trip I got a CB radio installed so I could speak with my friend in his car or to the truck driver..This was really the safest way that I could go past one of these monsters that " snake"down the highway.When at speed on outback roads the dust is impossibe to see what is ahead on the road .The drivers of these vehicles will usually "wave you on" when the road is clear to pass.
SO BE PATIENT AND PLEASE BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN PASSING ONE OF THESE.
When driving in The Northern Territory , like ALL parts of Australia's outback areas ...make sure that you take care while driving and be very careful of our precious wild life. There are also many feral animals that roam freely in the "outback" ie: camels , wild pigs, cattle, dogs ,horses, buffalo and these are big animals.
As most accomodation, and towns ,Roadhouses are so far apart here the distances that a lot of tourists try and drive at a time are much to far..Try and make sure that you are organised with your nights accomodation and be OFF the road by sunset..The main reason for this is when the wildlife comes out to "eat and fossick" ( when it gets dark) a lot will lay on the roads ,as Kangaroos do for they like the warmth of the Bitumen.. This then brings them into disasterous conflict with speeding traffic...To hit one of these large animals at speed can be disasterous for you and your car..Also remembering if this happens , you are sometimes in extremely isolated areas and help is NOT close by..
PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF ADVISORY WILDLIFE SIGNS ON THE HIGHWAYS
Be very very careful entering any of the waterways in the Northern Territory. Most areas with a known croc population are sign posted advising you not to swim. DO NOT disregard these signs you probably will end up as an entre. If you are not sure you can always ask at a ranger station which areas are safe to swim in and they will give you the full run down. The Northern Terrritory Parks and Wildlife Commission has information regarding where safe swimming areas are located.
When backpacking and camping in NT be careful, we saw crocodiles, snakes and huge spiders. So lucky to of saw so much but keep a wide birth, and light a fire, itl get rid of the spiders. We just got really stoned and tried to forget about it.
DONT TRY AND DRIVE AT NIGHT!!!! NT roads have no lights or anything like that, the road at night is a freeway for animals! We tried it a few times and got hit by a posse of Roos, straight into the side of the car, none of them were hurt although we had a dent in my passenger door. We would just pull into corn fields and random spots to sleep in the back of the Mitsibushi Magna, but we were two hard bloke, i wouldnt recommend it, especially for girls.... iv heard stories.
Green Tree Frogs have taken up residence in nearly every rest area/campsite toilet from Darwin to Alice Springs. The frogs, which apparently use the toilets as personal swimming pools, aren't always green but they are completely harmless. But having one jump out after you sit down or flush the toilet can be quite a shocking experience if you aren’t expecting it.
If you don't know how to do it, don't do it!
Water crossings can become a very expensive and painful exercise if you don't know how to do it and/or don't have a car suitable for it.
Vehicles designed for off road travel usually have breather tubes which allow air movement but take the air from higher up, hopefully above the water level. Diffs and gearboxes get very hot while driving. Suddenly plunging into water causes the air to cool and contract within them thus sucking in extra air through whatever it can, but obviously not below water level. If below, it's water that gets sucked in. Afterwards, wet brake pads don't work until they dry - you don't have brakes.
A vehicle moving through water pushes up a bow wave in front and the water level is a lot lower behind it, ie the engine compartment. If the car stops, or goes too slow, the bow wave collapses and floods the engine compartment - big trouble!
At night obviously if the water is too high the headlights will be under water and therefore no light.
Another consideration is the speed of water flow. In still water I'll attempt one metre depth if necessary. Running water 0.8 metre is my limit. Of course if the water is going extremely fast then it could be considered impossible and not attempted. Mine is a high clearance vehicle with a smaller side profile which allows more water to pass under without pushing against it.
A final consideration, although just as important as the rest, is the bottom of the water crossing. If it's bitumen or concrete which hasn't been damaged by flood water then so much the better. Sand can give way in the swirling water and you'll dig yourself in. Mud or clay can make you sink deeper and loose traction. Rough rocky bottom can also be difficult. The only sure way to know what it's like is to wade across first to test it out. Of course you risk getting swept away and drowning, or else being taken by a crocodile.
WATER CROSSINGS ARE A DANGEROUS BUSINESS!
This sounds very basic right? Then why is it that a constant stream of news stories hit Australian television about the tourists that are taken by crocodiles in the far north of the Northern Territory? There are signposts everywhere warning of the presence of saltwater crocodiles and yet people still swim or stand in the water while fishing!
A couple of years ago an Australian tour guide led a group of tourists toward Kakadu National Park and they camped in an area along the Arnhem highway. For whatever reason, (perhaps a brain explosion,) he went swimming with a couple of these tourists in a waterhole at night. A German tourist was taken by the crocodile and killed. The tour guide is now a tourist in the maximum security wing of a Northern Territory prison.
Driving speeds are unrestricted on the open road in the Northern territory (60 km's per hour in built up areas unless otherwise sign posted) and tourists often drive at incredible speeds of over 180 km per hour. this is often done without any thought being placed on the safety of the other road users, the wildlife that can wander onto the road or the distances between service stations and their next supply of fuel.
The extra speed burns fuel at an alarming rate and the distance to your next fuel stop can mean a long walk, in hot/dry conditions to get help.
In Central Australia sudden rain and "Flash flooding" can make some roads impassable, even if you driving a 4WD. Anne and I were driving from Alice Springs to visit Glenn Helen Gorge and it decided to rain quite heavily on our return trip. Within 10 minutes this dry riverbed sprang to life and we were lucy to get across. Within another 5 minutes this road was cut for 2 days!
As I mentioned earlier....You should also pack enough food and water for an extra couple of days, a hat, torch, matches etc in case you get stranded.
I would just like to clarify that you did not hand your keys to a staff member. You actually...more
We actually camped on our stay near Ayers Rock. However, as a public service, let me share a bit of...more
Well I stayed two nights in this "resort" and from the minute I arrived, I wanted to leave. A young...more