THE OUTBACK: SWAGGING, SOMBREROS AND THE DEVILS MARBLES

Yaaaaaaaay I wasn’t bitten by one of the many animals that want to kill you in the outback! To be honest, I didn’t even see a spider and only one snake from 100m away, so I panicked for no reason. 

I had a really uneventful 2 days in Brisbane. I feel, even though it was one of my favourite places on the East Coast, going back for a third time was more than enough. I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in my favourite cheap cinema on Southbank and then had an awful nights sleep with my room mates constantly turning on the lights and shouting and squealing at each other. So I made a point of waking up super early and packing really loudly. 

My flight to Darwin wasn’t until 8:30pm, so I spent the day just walking around Brissy until I was bored. I was so tired by the time I got to the airport, I couldn’t wait to sleep on the plane. However, this turned out to be near impossible when I discovered I was sat in between a crazy older woman who shoved her bottle in between our seats (but it was mainly on my seat), and a slightly larger man. But the row in front had only one person, so of course as soon as the seatbelt sign went off, I moved forward and managed a couple of hours of kip.

After landing at 00:30 I was the last one in the shuttle bus to get dropped off at their hostel at 2:00am. Thankfully, the owners of the Hostel, Gekko Lodge, had made my bed for me and I was ready for sleep. I found out quickly there is not a lot to do in Darwin. The first day I slept for a loooooong time then finally went food shopping before walking down to the beach and the small markets there. The next day was a lazy day mainly consisting of watching films (Finding Dory and The BFG) and chatting to the other people at the hostel. 

The next day was the start of the tour. I trekked over to the meeting place, the YHA hostel on the main strip and found the introductory meeting didn’t start until 7pm. Being the first to arrive, I went for a walk looking for a cotton on where I could buy myself a new bikini, since mine had become worn and faded. I also went for a wonder over to the Lagoon before heading back to the hostel and finding two new occupants to my room; Anna and Celene. Anna is from Switzerland and had been travelling around Australia for four months and this was the last part of her trip. Celene is from Brisbane had just finished Uni for the semester and wanted to explore her own country.

We sat and talked for a bit before having a short walk to Coles to grab some snacks for the tour. At five minutes to seven we wondered down to reception to meet the others on the tour. There were three boys, Max, Josh and Luke, all from different parts of England. Max and Josh had met whilst working in Sydney and ended up travelling together whilst Luke was an accountant back home and got appointed to the Sydney office a few months ago. And then there was a couple from Melbourne, Lauren and Kyle, who, like Celene, wanted to explore their country properly. 

Caitlin, our CEO (tour guide) arrived and took us upstairs to start our meeting. She seemed cool but slightly crazy, but that might have been because she had just finished a tour that ended with three people who didn’t really talk to each other. We went round in a circle and introduced ourselves before heading out for food. They all seemed like a nice bunch of people and I honestly could not wait to get this trip started.


Caitlin kept changing the departure time for the morning and finally decided to go from 6:30am to 7:30am. With only 8 of us of the tour, we all basically managed to nab a double seat each on Giles (our beloved and sexy bus) unless we sat at the front. It was wonderful and convenient for falling asleep. Litchfield National Park was our first destination and our first stop was to look at some termite mounds. It was actually pretty cool, they looked different to the ones in Gambia and we found out that termites build their mounds using the magnetic field. We next went to a waterfall and sat in this deep pool area. My bikini actually felt comfortable for once and my boobs weren’t popping out.


It was cold, but in a nice way as the Northern Territory proved itself to be hotter than Fiji and the sky was cloudless. I was able to demonstrate my new skills as a swimmer. Max was showing off trying to dive down to the bottom; I tried to copy, but as Max is 6ft, I failed.

Late afternoon we did a Crocodile Cruise along a river. Though, it wasn’t so much a crocodile cruise than a bird watching tour. Over the three hours we were sat on the boat, we saw maybe four crocs, one snake in a tree and around a thousand birds. I won’t lie, some of the birds were really beautiful, but when you expect to be surrounded by crocodiles, they lose their impressiveness. And also, there is always that one person who cannot stop asking questions. He asked ‘what is that bird?’ about forty times and the answer was always a whistler. 


It was glorious watching the sunset on the river though. The reflection was perfect and a croc decided the swim past at the perfect time.

After the cruise, we headed to our first campsite where we would be sleeping in swags under the stars. Swags are like large sleeping bags with a thin mattress in them. You put your actual sleeping bag inside and have your head poking out the top. We placed our swags in a circle and attempted to tell scary stories. Another CEO had joined us, Benny, who turned the conversation into spirit animals. We took it in turns telling the group what our spirit animal was and why. I wasn’t sure what my spirit animal would be, so I went with a tiger saying how they hide in the shadows and can camouflage themselves, but when the time is right they show their power. Not really sure if that’s true but I went with it. Then, Benny told us to imagine if there was only two of our chosen animals left on the planet, what would our mating call be… Luckily we stopped playing this game before it got to me.

I thought I would be more uncomfortable in a swag, but the only uncomfortable part was Luke snoring next to me! It was amazing to just look up straight a the stars and spot the Milky Way within a second before drifting off to sleep.


The second day of the trip, we did a couple of walks around some aboriginal sights in Kakadu National Park, where we learnt about the Rainbow Snake and Nabulwinjbulwinj, a dangerous spirit who liked to eat females after striking them with yams. It was really cool to be able to see some real aboriginal drawings on the rocks. The information boards gave us different interpretations of what the drawings meant. This is a reason why you should do the outback when you visit Australia.

We then went to another waterfall and swimming location. This one was a bit more full of people. Luckily Celene and Anna both were not big fans of swimming either, so although I did have a little paddle, I was able to just chill on the rocks with them whilst the boys messed around. 

On the way to our next campsite, we collected firewood so we could have a big fire to cook dinner on. Unfortunately, there was no big logs so we had to make do with dead branches from trees and basically twigs. The road to the campsite was what you imagine the outback to be; bright red sand roads with nothing but bushes and trees surrounding it and the sun was orange with the dust of the sand. 

Max, Josh and I made a joint effort to start the fire with great success after ripping up grass from the surrounding area. Unfortunately though, we didn’t participate in dancing around the fire naked which had been suggested earlier in the bus. For dinner we had this weird vegetable cheese stew cooking in a pot on the embers of the fire, along with corn on the cob. It was actually pretty tasty! The second night of swagging was even better than the first. The stars were magically clearer and there were no trees in the way.

We woke in the dark to climb to the top of a waterfall to watch the sunrise. Some of us apparently mistakenly thought we would be up there to watch the whole sunrise, however, the sun stayed hidden behind the hills and we had to leave before it revealed itself to us. This meant those of us who stayed on the hill missed out on seeing the pool below.

It was time to say goodbye to Lauren, Kyle and Luke as they had only booked the Kakadu part of the tour. After turning the wrong way again, we headed to a little town called Katherine where the Greyhound was due to pick them up and take them back to Darwin. And this is where things started to get weird. Caitlin took us to a random shop where we all ended up buying colourful sombreros so we could have a Mexican rave night. Before leaving Katherine, we all climbed on top of a fake crocodile wishing to take it as another mascot, but Caitlin was told to get off it whilst the rest of us were waiting about an hour to get McDonald’s.


We headed to Edith Falls next which, out of all the waterfalls I’ve been too, was definitely one of the most beautiful. It was almost worth the hike it took to get up there. It was probably the hottest day, but the coolest water. Of course we took our sombreros with us and took photos in the water, acting like mermaids. We drove to our next campsite at Katherine Gorge where wallabies just hopped around.

Here they had this weird BBQ set up, making it real difficult to light a fire underneath it. Eventually though, with half a can of deodorant and multiple patches of grass ruined later, Josh and I got the fire going. Of course, to go with our Mexican theme, we had fajitas for dinner, which were delicious. Even though only 3 people had left, it was odd with just 5 of us and Caitlin. Instead of sleeping in a circle, we slept in an odd line to try and block ourselves from the toilet light. We tried to make Caitlin tell us some bedtime stories, but she ignored us and went to sleep on Baby Giles (the trailer) and we ended up just telling stories amongst ourselves, before Josh started stroking Celene’s face. The bathroom light eventually turned off and after throwing twigs at each other we soon fell asleep staring at the stars again, ready for another sunrise start.

The bats are what we woke up to. Hundreds of them screeching above us. Celene booked a cruise to do along the gorge whilst the rest of us climbed the hill alongside it. The sun rose near the centre of the gorge, and everyone was quiet as though in their own world. It was definitely one of my favourite sunrises of the trip. We watched Celene’s boat pass us below before heading back down the path. Along the way, I managed to trip and graze my hand on a metal walkway. Luckily, being the slowest at the back, no one saw me.


Towards the campsite we past several trees where the bats had gathered to fall asleep. It was incredible, literally thousands covering these trees. The pictures don’t do it justice as they just look like dead leaves. The sound was near unbearable though and the smell of bat poop was strong, so we decided not to linger.


Today was mainly a lot of driving. The only stop we really made was at the Mataranka Hot Springs; our last swimming opportunity of the trip. It was relaxing, but just not as exciting at the other places we had been. We ate lunch here next to Giles and by this point we had made a ‘Honk if you’re Horny’ sign and we were determined to get a few honks out of it. Josh held it up first, but people didn’t seem too keen, only giving awkward waves, so I took over wearing just my bikini and towel, but had even less success.


After stopping at The Pink Panther watering hole (the had actually made their own Pink Panthers) we headed straight to Daly Waters Pub; a proper outback pub with a motel where we had actual beds to sleep in.


I managed to nab the double bed in our room as Celene and Anna were kind enough to let me have it. We were hoping to continue our Mexican theme by having a shot of tequila, turns out they didn’t have any, so jäger was the choice instead! Someone even recognised us with our sombreros and asked Celene if we were the same people in Woolworths in Katherine the other day. Brilliant. 

We ate our burgers and drank for a while. Max, Celene and myself tried to find Stewart’s Tree (a tree where a drunk man had walked to, collapsed under and died… there’s only a stump there now), but it was too dark to find and we got scared. We ended up playing a combination of never have I ever and questions back at the pub which turned out to be very interesting… Of course I’m not going to repeat any of it on here. Neither am I going to mention what happened when we all gathered in the girl’s room later. What happens at Daly Waters Pub stays at Daly Waters Pub.

Things only got weirder the next day. It started off normal enough despite our 4:30am start, and Josh wearing Caitlin’s leggings (he was going to wear them the night before, but we decided Daly Waters probably wasn’t the best place to do this). Most of us slept as Caitlin drove, waking to watch the sunrise over the flat desert land. Our first major stop of the day was the Devil’s Marbles. They’re these massive great big boulders just in the middle of nowhere. Some of them split down the middle and others balancing at weird angles. It’s one of those things you just won’t see anywhere else but in the outback. It was actually incredible.


Celene, Anna and I had decided to walk a bit further. By the time we returned to Giles, Caitlin had ‘initiated’ Josh and Max by putting big glitter blobs on their foreheads. This was the start of something. With a 1000km drive ahead of us, we all kind of went crazy. We found the rest of Caitlin’s glitter and face paint stash and made each other beautiful. Caitlin even pulled over to glitter Max’s beard. We stopped at places like Wycliffe Well, Australia’s UFO capital where we forgot about our strange appearances whilst buying ice cream and were shocked by the weird looks we were getting. Especially Josh in Caitlin’s leggings.

The rest of the way to Alice Springs was filled with holding up the honk if you’re horny sign at the few vehicles that passed us on the empty highway and taking it in turns to sleep on the makeshift swag bed at the back of Giles. At one point we stopped at some road works and got chatting to an Irish girl who had been standing outside in the heat, holding the stop/go sign nearly every day for the past two weeks. Her and her friend had packed dresses with them and high heels, thinking they would be having a great time, but this was all the work they could find in the middle of the outback where there is nowhere to have a party and there had been news of several murders. We ended up glittering her and taking pictures wearing our sombreros at the front of Giles. When we were finally able to go we ended up cheering, honking the horn and high fiving people out the window as we passed. We were definitely losing it.

We finally arrived at Alice Springs to more funny looks as we rocked up into the hostel. Thankfully we were all able to have a shower straight away before dinner. I don’t think any of us could face walking around with the stuff on our faces anymore and it had become incredibly itchy. We had dinner at a bar which sold $5 shots called things like cocksucking cowboy and wet pussy. I shared a couple of jugs of beer with Anna and we all drank whilst discussing ways to initiate the new people who were to join us on our tour the next day. We thought of things like dancing round the fire naked, being woken up by us stroking their faces, cleaning Giles and also having their faces painted with glitter. The evening ended with me being pushed back to the hostel in a trolley by Max. It was definitely a memorable day and night.

I’m going to have to cut my outback story in half and end it here. Tune in next time for stories about werewolves, Uluru and a baby kangaroo. I don’t know why I said ‘tune in next time’, it just felt right. Don’t judge me.

As always, love you all and thank you for reading 🤠

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