Back into the Outback

After the reopening of Australia’s interstate borders towards the end of 2020, I was all set to get back on the road and travel some of Australia’s East Coast. But before that, I wanted to explore some more remote areas, which had been fascinating me since my first journey across Australia one year earlier.

I decided to head back to Adelaide, from where I could access Flinders Ranges, a wondrous mountain range in inland South Australia, before I would eventually cross the length of New-South Wales, west to east. From Melbourne, I was headed to Adelaide while following the coast. Having lived in Melbourne for eight months, I almost forgot how empty Australia gets once you leave town. The feeling of being back on the road felt as familiar and liberating as ever, however there was a new aspect to it, maybe one of appreciation after months of ‘non-essential’ travel condemned within the country.

Driving on Robe’s Long Beach, a 17-km stretch of firm-packed sand.
Barossa Valley.
Going on a ride with James along the iconic Seppeltsfield winery.

I spent a few nights camping along the coast and eventually reached Adelaide and Barossa Valley, where I was fortunate to spend a few days with James and Lucy, a local couple who prompted me to explore the area a bit. The valley is well-known for its sceneries and being born in a wine region myself, it did feel like home, in a way.

A Place to Know Yourself

From Adelaide, about a 5-hour drive took me to Flinders Ranges, a mountain range that stretches along The Outback Highway and is part of South Australia’s ‘Far North’ region. I think the “far” part is the one that has been luring me. Throughout my journey, I found that simple, natural environments like this were the ones that made for the most memorable travel experience.

It didn’t take long for the landscape to turn from lush to dry, from green to yellow and eventually red and arid. It feels like leaving civilisation behind as the surroundings turn quiet and find their own pace.

According to the Aborigines, this mountain range is a spiritual place. Spiritual: what does that mean, anyway? In my eyes and when just looking at the scenery in a place like this, it helps to tap into what is real in this world, much like when looking at a great painting. Like a friend who stops talking to you to just take in the scenery, your mind stops talking for a while. It is making space for the void that is nothing and everything.

Wilpena Pound is sort of the heart of the Flinders Ranges. There are a few walking trails leading around and into the large natural amphitheatre that resembles a meteor crater. At this point, the Ranges are more green while further north, the landscape becomes more arid and somewhat mars-like. Via a sealed main road and some trails, I reach Blinman at the north of the Ranges. It’s supposed to rain tonight and being the only one on their campsite, the small “Blinman Hotel” allows me to pitch my tent inside the camp kitchen. I go on a dusk ride and the oncoming rain clouds make for an unreal sunset.

“There’s bugger all out there. It’s bloody hot. Why did you want to go there?” That’s a common opinion about the Outback. And yet, it’s the adversity and simplicity that can make it appealing. I see it this way: A horizon, a wide sky, a comparatively small human to perceive it all. It can make one feel so unimportant, but at the same time one is playing quite a crucial part here because if it wasn’t for them, who would be there to perceive it? It is a spiritual experience in the simplest sense: being the window through which the universe experiences itself. In that sense, it can make you feel more connected to your surroundings, a part of it all instead of apart from it all. 

“Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.”

Alan Watts

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