Exploring the Outback

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by Megan Byrd

Everyone who visits Australia must go to the outback at least once. It’s almost like a rite of passage. Going to Australia without seeing the outback would be like going to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. It would just be absurd. Inconceivable. It’s simply a must­do.

That being said, visiting the outback is no painstaking experience. The outback is a culture unique to Australia and can be one of the best experiences of your life. However, being a place unlike any other, there comes with it a degree of risk. The outback is a place of relative isolation, extreme temperatures, and dangerous creatures. If you don’t know what you’re doing and if you don’t come prepared, there’s a decent chance things could go wrong. There are too many foreign ways in the outback to travel into it blindfolded.

My recommendation for all first timers is to go with a tour. Maybe going on a tour makes you feel a bit of a pansy, or maybe you think the extra dough isn’t worth it, but I’m here to tell you I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

The most valuable thing a tour provides is a guide. It sounds silly and obvious, but these guys are actually pretty useful resources. For starters, they’re there to know what you didn’t do your homework on. They know all the poisonous and venomous animals. They know what waters are safe to swim in. They know how to gather firewood. They know where the best sites are. And they know what to do in case of emergency, etc. Essentially, they are your temporary mums and dads. They’re there to make your life easy so you can have fun and not worry that any second you might be eaten by a wild dingo.

On top of this, most guides are chock full of interesting (and occasionally not so interesting) information. Most of the good tour guides have grown up around the area. They know the culture. They know the aboriginal way of life. They know the histories of things that would escape your average tourist. They know where to find bush food. They know where you should go and where it’s too sacred to venture. If you’re keen at all on learning about the place you’re visiting, a guide is your walking encyclopedia.

Considering this, it’s also important to throw in that most guides aren’t boring and blasé. Most are young, vibrant, and full of life. They’re there because they love people and love to have fun. Generally, they won’t restrict you from having the type of tour you want. In fact, it will probably be quite the opposite. My tour guide was a mix between Chris Farley and Steve Irwin and I can’t even begin to tell you some of the stories I have from my days with him.

So aside from all the invaluable information and fun you’ll be receiving from your guide, there are the other obvious perks. No stress. You pay a fee and they provide you with food, transportation, and accommodation. This, while taking away from your worries, doesn’t take away from your experience. Chances are­at least if you’re doing the outback the right way­your tour won’t cater you with five course dinners and then shelter you in a resort. You’ll probably be sleeping in swags or tents and cooking out over the fire. It isn’t luxury. It’s the way of the outback. Just what you came to experience. In addition, you get to do all of this with a bunch of new, cool friends. If you enjoy meeting people and want to make the occasion more memorable, tours are ideal. Tours can run in large or small groups so you can always pick your group size. 10­20 people is probably ideal.

If you’re thinking about heading to the outback, the best place to probably start is Alice Springs. You can fly straight into the airport and from there your tour will pick you up. From Alice Springs it’s a good few hours until you see the places like Uluru, Kings Canyon, or the Olgas, but the ride will give you a taste of how vast the outback really is. Alternatively, you could take a tour from Adelaide to Alice or Alice to Darwin. Those tours tend to cover a larger distance and thus take a little longer than a tour of the centre, but if you’ve got the time, it’s worth your while.

So at the end of the day, it’s your choice whether you fly solo or with a tour, but for first timers a tour is definitely the most promising of the options. Either way, think smart, wear bug repellant, and get ready to get dirty. The outback isn’t your typical holiday.

Tour Links
Contiki Tours: www.contiki.com
Red Centre Adventures: www.redcentre.com.au
Wayward Bus Tours: www.waywardbus.com.au
Adventure Tours: www.adventuretours.com.au
Trek Australia: www.trekaustralia.com.au

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