Around the World 1997 Travel Diaries. Part 5, Australia! Going to the red centre

20 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Flight to Darwin was good but no sleep. At Darwin airport we got a shuttle bus to city Centre. We checked into a backpacker’s hotel double room since Tanja was still feeling unwell. We slept for a while until they shut off the aircon in the middle of the day, if we thought Bali was hot, it was nothing compared to Darwin! We went to a doctor and Tanja got some pills to feed her stomach amoeba. She had caught giardia while in Indonesia, so a handful of monster sized pills needed to be taken. Rest of the day in bed, and we caught a movie in the evening, Contact, great film!


21 October 1997, Melaleuca Lodge, Darwin, Australia:
Not feeling well – tired of being ill. Went to the doctor yesterday and got some pills for stomach-ache and nausea. Feel numb in my face, arms and legs, my whole body feels tired, my chest is aching. Went for a walk, but my whole body was shivering, so had to go back to rest. Sick of this. Want to get well.


Tanja stayed in our room. I walked to a travel agency that cooperates with Kilroy in Norway and talked to them and got to send some emails home for free! I also talked to Margot at Northern Territory Adventure Tours who gave us a good offer on a 6-day trip to Alice Springs for 400 Australian dollars for the both of us! Rest of the day was spent with Tanja watching TV.

The Stuart Highway becons

22 October 1997, Melaleuca Lodge, Darwin, Australia:
Finally starting to feel better! Hope it’s not temporary, but that I’ll get well and stay well. Never felt so weak and helpless before. Wanted to go back to Norway but didn’t know how to muster the strength to do that either. Ørjan has been so kind, helpful and understanding. Felt that I’ve ruined his vacation, too, haven’t had the strength to do anything. He’s been shopping, walked around on his own, made food and looked after me. My wonderful boyfriend! He’s also managed to book us on a nice tour – we’re leaving on Friday for a six-day safari from Darwin via Katherine Gorge and Alice Springs to Ayers Rock, the Olgas and Kings Canyon. He gets the tour for free, while I pay around NOK 2000 (GBP 200), but we’ll get refund for about the same amount for the flight tickets from Darwin to Alice Springs that we won’t be using, so the tour will cost us almost nothing, and food is included! I’m looking so much forward to this trip, so much better than just going by plane! If only I get completely well, I’ll be even more happy. Only got one day left in Darwin, sadly I haven’t seen anything at all, but don’t think there’s that much to see either. About 70,000 people live here, but you wouldn’t think so judging by the size of the centre, doesn’t feel any bigger than Fredrikstad. Quiet and laid back. And best of all; no sellers wanting to sell stuff no matter where we go. My/our patience was starting to get pretty low the last days in Indonesia. Don’t think I’ll go back, maybe just to see a bit more of Bali, which we sadly didn’t get to see much of, upon arrival we were really tired, then went on to Lombok, and when we returned, I was ill, and we just wanted to go to Australia.
Today we’ve eaten kangaroo! And milk and whole grain bread – it was so good! Boiled potatoes and gravy also tasted great, and the kangaroo almost tasted like game at home. Ørjan made it himself in the kitchen at the lodge. Very convenient that we can buy food and cook ourselves. We have fridge in the room too, but no shower or toilet. But that’s ok – both are situated right across the hall.

Tasty kangaroo!

Slept in. When Tanja was about to take the last 4 pills of her cure, she puked them straight up again. Had to go to the doctor again to get new pills. At the same time, he gave me a cure as well, just to be on the safe side. For dinner we had filet of kangaroo, it tasted a bit like moose but a bit finer and more tender. We proceeded to order the 6-day trip to Alice Springs and Ayers Rock.

23 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

I woke up with a feeling like I was starting to get a cold. We went past the travel agency to cancel our flight from Darwin to Alice Springs since we now would be doing this overland by bus. We also rebooked Alice Springs to Cairns for the 30th of October. At the travel agency we found out that the imbeciles at Quantas in Bali had us as NO Show from Bali to Darwin, this resulting in cancellation of the next 2 legs in Australia. Thankfully they had not cancelled our Sydney to Christchurch ticket or any other flights. Luckily there were 2 seats left from Alice Springs to Cairns on the 31st of October. I need to rapport this to Quantas when I get back home!

24 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja
First marsupial spotted!

Up at 05:00 to get to the bus departing at 06:00. After lunch we got to Katherine Gorge, a series of gorges filled with water. We stayed at a tented camp, small 2-man tents with a BBQ area. We had a very nice boat ride up the gorge. And we had time to go for a swim in waters that supposedly only had freshwater crocodiles and they only nibble your feet. The trip in the gorge was amazing. The rockface climbing 65 metres straight up above us. In the wet season the water rises by 5-7 metres. On our way back to the tents we saw the cutest wallabies grazing on the lawn, we could almost pet them! My first marsupial. Back at camp we had a delish BBQ with beers. It was around 40 degrees Celsius in the daytime, and it did not feel like much less at night. After dark even more wallabies came to graze, we got some great photos we hope. After battling with an army of ants that had occupied our tent, we tried to sleep but it was difficult due to high temperature and strange noises from wallabies and kookaburras outside our tent.


25 October 1997, Renner Springs, somewhere between Darwin and Alice Springs, Australia:
Never thought I’d get to experience this! We’ve just been told by our driver/guide Jaime how to use our swags, i.e., a kind of mattress/sleeping bag, and at the same time he recommended us to open them slowly and ensure that no snakes had taken shelter in them… We’re in the middle of the desert, a place with lots of snakes that we’ve been warned of, the most poisonous of them all could be in the bushes right next to us… Strangely I don’t feel that scared, but I might not be able to sleep tonight, under a canvas on the ground, in the open, together with the other people on the tour. We’ve been on the bus a lot today, left Katherine this morning at around 7.30 a.m. after getting up at around 6. Tired then, had only just fallen asleep after lying in a small tent that was so hot, I could almost bathe in my own sweat. Plus, I was thinking of all the animals that might get into the tent, and tonight I’m sleeping in open air… We were only on the road for about an hour before arriving in Mataranka – a place with thermal pools – with a temperature of about 27 degrees Celsius.

Not very cooling in other words, so I skipped the whole thing. What was interesting, though, were all the sounds in the forest around the pools, a cacophony of noise. And when we looked up to the trees there were hundreds, maybe thousands of flying foxes, a big bat species. The fauna here is just extraordinary; yesterday we were close enough to pet a wallaby, or actually several, they were almost tame, probably because we were at a camping site, and they are used to people – luckily we got some photos. We were also swimming in Katherine Gorge, and a bit later, about 50 metres from where we were swimming, the guide on the boat trip we were on pointed out a crocodile to us. Luckily it was only a freshie that only get to about three metres long and is apparently not dangerous to people, but still… Katherine Gorge was beautiful, several lakes in a row between high ravines – almost as Grand Canyon I imagine.

The water had an almost green-like colour. The place we were swimming reminded me of a small, quiet lake at home, only with very different vegetation, palm trees, eucalyptus etc. There were warning signs stating it was forbidden to go ashore on certain beaches because the crocodiles laid their eggs there for hatching. We left Darwin early yesterday morning, and stopped at Adelaide River for breakfast before arriving in Katherine at about 11.30 a.m. One of the largest towns between Darwin and Alice Springs only had one street going through, I think: the Stuart Highway. Bought something to drink at Woolworths and went to Katherine Gorge where we chose a tent to stay in, had some lunch, and went down to the lake. We went swimming, and then for a cruise. Ate dinner and got to know the other 25 people on the trip, went to bed at around 11 p.m., pretty tired, but great fun to be part of a trip like this! Get to know a lot of people and see/learn a lot more than if we had only travelled on our own. Although there isn’t that much to see along Stuart Highway, a lot of dirt, trees, dirt and trees… But interesting to see how desolate it is! Will soon have dinner, the little weight I’ve lost while being ill, will soon get back I’m afraid.

The Stuart Highway belle

After a long and clammy night and some rain we got rudely awakened at 06:00 for breakfast. Back at the bus down the epic Stuart Highway towards Alice Springs. We stopped at the Mataranka hot springs for a swim in the crystal-clear water. Thousands of flying foxes hung upside down in the trees above making a huge racket. We ate lunch at Daly Waters, population 70 in the middle of nowhere.

We stopped for the night at Renner Springs where we had our first night in Swags. A kind of canvas sleeping bag thing, very Australian. We had to check the swags for snakes before we crawled into them, this could be an interesting night!

26 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

It was a horrible night! My cold had bloomed, and my head hurt like hell. I was a little nervous for those snakes, so after trying to sleep in the swag, I went into the bus and caught a restless sleep for a few hours in a bus seat. We ate breakfast as usual and drove to the Devils Marbles, rocks that look like giant eggs. The Aboriginals of the area think that these are eggs from the Rainbow serpent. We had lunch at an old telegraph station. Remember that most aboriginals do not like us taking pictures of them, they think that this removes some of their spirit. So, best be avoided. We got to Alice Springs and those who travelled on an OZ Experience bus pass left us after a farewell dinner at Melanka lodge. We got an OK room but without aircon it was hotter than a baking oven! At least we got our first shower in a few days.

Seems like we were both happy to be in a more “westernized” country, even though Tanja had a rough time getting over her amoeba stomach alien. We took no prictures in Darwin for some reason. Australia was a dream come true, and in the following weeks we had some of our greatest experiences in the wonderful down under.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Up next: Kings Canyon, climbing Uluru and walking with giants in the Kata Tjutas

Categories:Around The World 1997, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. It would be difficult for me to try to eat kangaroo. Also, I don’t think I could swim with friendly crocodiles nibbling at my toes. And I don’t think I could sleep a wink with any kind of snakes in the nearby bushes. Yikes! You both are really adventurers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kangaroo is very healty meat, very low in fat and cholesterol. I think that the general fear for snakes and spiders in Australia is highly exaggerated, during our two visits (and about 2 week sleeping in the ground around a campfire) we have seen very few snakes (1 on the side of the road, a constrictor, non poisonous) and just a small number of spiders, most non venomous or low venom, so there is a low chance of any creepie crawlies actually taking a nibble on you. The crocs on the other hand, those salt water ones, should be respected.

      Liked by 1 person

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