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In the heart of the country: Australia’s Red Centre

I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of travelling. I’ve backpacked through Europe with my girlfriends, jet-setted to the States for work, and done some solo soul-searching in South East Asia.

But a year ago I watched a documentary about the Australian outback and knew I simply had to go. I took a week’s leave, packed a backpack with essentials, told my parents not to worry, and headed to Australia’s Northern Territory in search of excitement and adventure.

My plane touched down in Darwin, where we were met with sweltering heat and a blindingly bright, cloudless sky. I caught a cab to my accommodation in the centre of Darwin and spent the evening walking around the city, getting a feel for the place.

I stopped by one of the night markets to check out some of the locally-made crafts and to sample some homemade mango ice cream! As the sun set, I could feel myself falling in love with this magical city already.

Pic: Wheres_Dot/flickr

The next morning, I woke up early to take a tour bus to Uluru. It was already hot by the time we got there at around 9am. I’d been told by friends that I’d be wowed by its majesty, but I don’t think I could’ve expected to feel as awestruck as I did on that sizzling morning.

Ayers Rock itself is huge – you really can’t fathom the magnitude until you see it in person. I was struck dumb by its sheer size and extraordinary beauty. You can feel the immense spirituality of the place, and that feeling stays with you for days afterwards.

Our tour bus then took us to Kings Canyon National Park, where we hiked along the rocky creek bed toward canyon rim. The walk was exhausting but we were rewarded by an incredible view and a heavenly natural pool surrounded by cycads. I’ve never been so happy to see water in my life!

The next day the bus took us to Katherine, about a three-hour drive from Darwin. After stopping for a quick lunch in town, a few members of our tour group hopped in a van and headed to Nitmiluk National Park to see the Katherine Gorge. It was simply breathtaking – a peaceful body of water crawling calmly through giant ancient rocks.

Pic: Stephen Barnett/flickr

We spent some time rock climbing and taking photos before exploring the beautiful waterfalls below. Some of my group went out for a canoe, but I decided to stay on the banks of the gorge, marvelling at the wonders around me.

In the wet season, the waters of the gorge can get choppy, so you do have to be careful. Thankfully, my fellow tour members and I were insured, just in case anything happened!

As the bus headed back to Darwin that evening I thought about how fortunate I was to have experienced the magic of Australia’s outback. Though my trip was a short one, I now have a taste for the beauty and freedom of the red centre, and I can’t wait to go back.

If you’re looking for a magical travel experience, look no further than the Northern Territory. All you need is a backpack, a water bottle, comprehensive travel insurance for backpackers, and an open mind. The glory of this magnificent country awaits you.

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