Australia's Great OutbackWords by Carolyn Gerin
6 p.m. rush hour, any city, engaged couple...
Says she: Honey, let’s get away, disconnect and recharge…no cell phones, laptops, deadlines…
Says he: Totally agree! Our honeymoon is around the corner. Let’s escape and go into the wild, where no one can find us…
And so it begins, the conversation which sets in motion the epic journeys which define you as a couple; realized by mutual need and desire: for peace, connection, solace and serenity – for romance and realization. If you crave a great escape beyond predictable honeymoon offerings, one which provides adventure and otherworld natural beauty, wildlife and wonderful solitude, look no further than Australia’s great Outback.
You’ve seen the films, been seduced by the mythology of this gargantuan expanse of connecting deserts and ranges. But nothing prepares you for the sheer scale and riot of color which permeates Earth’s natural wonder.
The Outback, to be precise, is 6.5 million square kilometers inhabited by less than 60,000 people. Where it is, is a conundrum, as it’s not a precise location, but rather a collection of idealized attributes assigned to a place which lives in our consciousness.
It’s rugged and romantic to be sure, but if you think you’ll be bootstrapping it with canteens and beef jerky with only the company of kangaroos – think again. The Outback offers amenities which will impress the most erudite concierge. Suspend disbelief and set foot on the road less travelled…
Start your trip out on the right foot with Qantas and fly International Business Class. Enjoy fresh lamb, South Australian wines and a comfy chair-bed all the way to Adelaide (a lovely city worth exploring).
Rent a SUV with four-wheel drive and travel 4.5 hours to astonishing Arkaba Station, a 60,000-acre working sheep station on the edge of Flinders Range National Park. This 1850s homestead offers “wild bush luxury” with heritage touches like sheepskin rugs, only five rooms and a Coachmen’s Cottage. It’s quietly blissful – the only music you hear is the galah birds which circle the gum trees. For miles, nothing dots the landscape but sheep, a few kangaroo and the Range. It’s eerie and enchanting being so far away from it all. In the quiet, you can breathe again.
Having been to many five-stars, Arkaba offers a truly unique experience: letting nature take the lead and building their “resort DNA” around it. As night falls, the sky turns a fuchsia-violet. Under a canopy of stars, we enjoy a cool glass of Barossa wine and meet our dining companions at a communal table on the veranda. Chef Cesar Varricchio’s food is outstanding; lamb raviolis, zucchini flowers and fresh produce. An exhilarating lightening storm lights up the velvet sky while we enjoy a nightcap on the porch before a deep, restful sleep.
Daybreak brings the Outback into sharper focus: off-roading with Kat, our guide and the quintessential Australian super-woman, tucks us under wooly blankets in the chilly dawn to experience sunrise over the Range and every manner of wildlife: eagles, emu, hawks, galahs and scores of Kangaroo moms and their baby joeys.
Next is Rawnsley Park Station located below the Rawnsley Pound in Flinders Range – a modern and marvelous warren of eco-villas set cleverly into the captivating landscape. Our room is comfortable and modern with a sweeping view of the Rawnsley Bluff.
Hike up to Arkaroo Rock and get a 360-degree view of wildly colored rock formations with only sheep, emus and kangaroos as companions. Upon hiking the Mawson Trail, prepare to encounter no fewer than 50 kangaroos standing straight up and gazing at you, transfixed. Take a spin in a charter flight unearthing the staggering natural amphitheatre of Wilpena Pound, regarded as the best place in Australia to view the sun rise and set. Check out the sheep shearing station: they are made salon-comfortable and relieved of their heavy coat in summertime.
End the day with a glass of wine and watch the brick-red sunset from your deck and head down to the Woolshed Restaurant for hearty, country-style fare including farm-raised Dohne lamb, or book a Starlight Banquet – dining under the stars in a bush setting with your sweetie.
Isolated but not alone, bound together to witness life-altering natural wonders, your first journey into the rest of your life should be as epic as you are are.
Get lost together.
Take a Walk on the Wild Side: Coober Pedy
Fly from Adelaide right into the Twilight Zone – if you seek a truly unusual travel adventure – this is it. Coober Pedy is the largest producer of the world’s opals, with soaring temperatures necessitating underground homes, churches, stores and an eclectic 40-nationality community. The Desert Cave Inn has comfortable, air-conditioned rooms built right into the rock face and excellent food. Mad Max and Red Planet were filmed here on the Moon Plain – a vast expanse of craters – abandoned ‘space ships’ flank our hotel and ‘lawn sculptures’ from old film sets dot the terrain. We toured underground apartments, mines and even dug for opals amidst one of the richest dinosaur fossil repositories in the world. The entire landscape resembles an alien planet. That said, even the grassless Coober Pedy Golf Course has reciprocal playing rights with Saint Andrews in Scotland. Local sites also include: the famous 5300 km Dog Fence and the Painted Desert – an ever changing range of color on the mesas. Take to the Painted Hills to see almost martian-like conical formations rising out of the Desert floor.
Photos Courtesy of SATC (1st), Randy Larcombe (2nd & 4th), and Coober Pedy (3rd)
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