Fantastic beaches. Modern and multicultural cities. A dynamic and growing economy. All well and good. But head inland and you can find one of the truly great wilderness expanses on the planet: the great Australian outback.
Quite where the “outback” starts is not clear. There is no sign on the road. But you can be sure you’re there, “back o’ Bourke” or “in the red centre” when the nearest shop is a few hours’ drive away and the pace of life is dictated by the temperature and not much else.
The Outback is as Australian as the kangaroo or boomerang. It’s huge. It’s hot. It’s not got a lot going for it. Except that its very expanse makes it staggeringly beautiful. The colours – the red, ochre, orange – the submission to the elements and the impossibly large distances without any change make this a place like nowhere on earth.
It’s so other-worldly, in fact, that it made the perfect setting for movies like Mad Max and the cult gay road movie Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
The Outback is there for the journey. The journey must be long and must be hot and dusty. Driving across the Nullabor or bouncing along a dirt road towards The Red Centre in a 4-wheel drive must rank as on the great road-trips of the world. It’s not about the destination; it’s about driving for hours and not seeing a soul. It’s about the pre-historic wildlife and feeling an isolation that is hard to find anywhere else. It’s about seeing the Great Southern Land as it was before European settlement: home to the Aboriginal people who for thousands of years have lived under a scorching sun farfar away from the sandy beaches and the comforts that we now enjoy in 21st century Australia.
For many Australians there’s a comfort in knowing that The Outback is there. Even if few ever visit. But if you have the time and the spirit of adventure, crossing from east to west or from north to south is a journey that will stay with you forever.