The Outback: 6 days from Adelaide to Alice Springs

The Outback: 6 days from Adelaide to Alice Springs

Written by Heather

Topics: Life in Oz

People told me there was more to Australia than Sydney, and I believed them. I just didn’t know what the *more* was having not experienced it first hand. After this 6-day adventure, I’ve seen more of the country than just the streets of capital cities, and I loved it.

Reading travel blogs for years gave me a taste of what the world has to offer. But as Joanne Fedler shares in When Hungry, Eat, “What others can teach us through their experiences is only useful to a certain point, and when we recognise where that point is, that’s when our authentic experience begins. It becomes a fork in the road of our consciousness in which we turn and face inwards, and ask ‘How is it for you?'”

I knew there was Australia beyond Sydney, and now I’m living it for myself so I can *know* on my own terms.

With that in mind, I’m not quite sure how to share the 6-day journey I had from Adelaide to Alice Springs with you. I’m not an author or poet who can weave a magical story to convey my thoughts and feelings as clearly and fully as possible. While I enjoy taking photos with my fancy pants digital-SLR, I am in no way a photographer and photos simply can’t do the journey justice. I’d love to share all of the historical and cultural tidbits I jotted down throughout the week, but without the full context, it would probably be infinitely less interesting to you than it was to me.

Friends and family have eagerly asked for details of the trip, so here is my best go at sharing some of my favorite moments and impressions…ask questions if you have them, or better yet, come to Australia and experience it!

Day 1

If you read about my first month in Australia, you’ll know I encountered some good, some bad, and some ugly moments in the first four weeks. Fresh on the heels of a “what in the world have I done quitting my job to come here?!” feeling, setting out on a 6-day trip was probably going to be the best thing I could do or quite possibly the worst.

Once a group of 14 had gathered at the bus pick-up point and I learned more than half of the group had traveled the previous leg together, my heart sank a little. When nobody spoke for the first few hours, it sank a little further. Would I spend the next 6 days amongst cliques or complete silence? Though understandable after my bouts of loneliness in Melbourne, the fears were thankfully completely unwarranted. At the first stop of the day, I met another 30-something from Sydney, who by the trip’s end would be a new friend (I continue to be pleasantly surprised that the people I have connected with the most have been Aussies or long-term residents).

After settling in to our overnight accommodation in Quorn, the group set off on a hike to the Dutchman Stern in the Flinders Ranges.

Atop the Dutchman Stern

On the hike down, our primary tour guide (who was in training — we’ll call him M) decided to give everyone clever nicknames. One of the girls from France became “Frenchie.” Upon hearing my accent, he declared that I would be known as “Seppo.”

“Wow…that’s my first time being called Seppo,” I started.


“Nope. Never been called one til now.”

“WOW. You’ve never been called ‘seppo’. Well do you know what it means?”

“Sure. I knew what it meant before my first visit four years ago.”

“Well what does it mean then,” he asked, sounding suspicious that I knew the actual meaning.

“It’s a term for Americans and instead of ‘Yank’, it’s for ‘septic tank’, which is shortened to ‘seppo’.”

“Oh okay, wow, you do know what it means.”

It was the last time he called me “seppo” all week!

Later that night, a few of us wondered down to the pub where I sipped my first Boag’s Premium and listened to my new friend (let’s call her MW) and one of our tour guides (known as J) discuss Aussie and Aboriginal culture. I was absolutely fascinated and took turns asking questions and simply sitting and soaking it all in.

Day 2

We visited several sites in the morning that weren’t of particular note then so I won’t bother to share them now! Let’s fast forward to one of my favorite parts of the entire 6 days — our visit to Yourambulla Caves

Climbing down from viewing Aboriginal cave paintings
Yourambulla Caves

Tour guide J is very interested in Aboriginal culture and spoke about songlines, which provided information about how to navigate one’s country, where to find food, how to conduct ceremony, information about religion, and so on. As you grew in experience and status, you learned more lines of the song. There are no more full-blood members of the group who inhabited the area of the caves, so their songlines have been lost. It is an oral history rather than a written one, and I found it sad that over time more culture, history, and tradition will be lost. I learned more from J and have it tucked away in my notes :-)

At lunch kangaroos came out to play, hoping we’d feed them as other travelers have apparently done.

Tour guide J with mum and joey
One of our guides with mum & joey

Following lunch we had a walk at Wilpena Pound. Then we drove a bit further for this beautiful view.

More hills and clouds!

Day 3

We started the day with another early morning wake up call that rewarded us (well, me — pretty much everyone else fell asleep within moments of boarding the bus) with a beautiful sunrise over flat terrain. I loved the sunrises during the trip.

After a few “points of interest”, we stopped at one of Australia’s many salt lakes that *surprise* actually has water in it — this only happens every 100 years or so.

The salt lake only has water every 100 yrs or so

Salt lake

From there it was on to Coober Pedy, the warmest destination I’ve visited in the last 6 weeks and the world’s opal capital! I instantly fell in love with Coober Pedy…not sure why, but something about the town charmed my socks off.

Unlike gold, few companies have large opal mines because it is more difficult to predict where to find it! Instead, many individuals or small groups set out on their own to search for the glittering gem.

Danger in Coober Pedy

We were provided with time to go “noodling” in the opal fields
Noodling for opals

I only searched for 20 minutes before opting to walk around town with new friend MW. While I didn’t find an opal in the fields, I did buy myself the *tiniest* opal ring ever.
Coober Pedy noodling fields

Halfway there…

I thought I would write about the entire trip in one post, but the last three days deserve their own. Come back soon for the second half!

17 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Darren says:

    Asolutely brilliant account of your trip, as always well written, and concise. The photos were ok I guess………Just teasing, your photos are of professional quality, well done!

  2. Evan says:

    Yay for a new blog post complete with Kangaroos πŸ˜€

  3. Mom says:

    Hmmm…Clever nick names you say. Seems they weren’t so clever after all! Good for you Heather, you go girl!!!

  4. Andi says:

    So, my eyes filled up with tears when I saw the title of your post. I did this trip about 3 years ago in Wicked camper van with my then-Aussie bf. It was one of the BEST trips of my life. I would do it again in a heartbeat!!! Haha, I was called Seppo all the time when I was in Oz. Drove me crazy, plus I think it’s super rude. Can’t wait to read the rest of your story…

    • Heather says:

      Really, all the time? It just amuses me that people find it okay to use that casually :-)

      I *loved* it and would love to share it with someone again before I leave!!!

  5. Rebecca says:

    I was in Australia for 8 months and NEVER heard that term before! (Maybe because I talked about NZ more then the US:-)).

    Very glad your knowledge shut the guide up quickly! Yeah, those long tours get very clique-y very fast but all you need is one solid mate and it’s all right! glad you got one:-).

    Can’t wait to read more!

    • Heather says:

      Thanks girl!

      Not that I *wanted* to be called seppo, but kind of wondered if I’d ever hear it…and now I have!

      • Darren says:

        Just for the record, although being called a seppo was very rude in my book, as long as you know it is just rhyming slang, & yes it does come from septic tank – yank, it is in NO way comparing you to a septic tank, it is just rhyme, and pretty well makes no sense, like we call police “johnny’s”, it is slang for Johnny Hoppers – coppers! And a thousand more!

        • Heather says:

          Oh I know it just rhymes, and yank isn’t the same. I wasn’t truly that offended but just found it interesting that a tour guide would feel comfortable enough to throw that out there on day 1!

  6. Melissa says:

    Oh pretty! What an awesome outdoor adventure. What was your favorite part?

    • Heather says:

      My favorite part? Hmm…I *loved* Coober Pedy and could have stayed there longer! I loved some of the moments just sitting in the van, watching the passing scenery & listening to the 2 Aussie tour guides and my Aussie friend chat about current events. The next post will talk about a miserable night the group had, but it was a bonding experience too :-)

  7. Hmm yes, seppo… I have not heard that one either! Plus, if I had, I would probably beat them up… but that’s just me. Sounds pretty bogan πŸ˜‰

    Lovely photos! Coober Pedy is a lot like White Cliffs, NSW – same opal mines everywhere making it look like a lunar landscape. Cool.

  8. Gale Davis says:

    Hi Heather:

    I finally managed to get to your website. My first try landed me on the Wizard of Oz’s site. Anyway, your pics are incredible. What an adventure! Things are pretty much the same here in C-Ville. It is blazing hot right now. The lady’s locker room has been sparse of late. Maryanne is taking her monthly visit to be with her sisters and the rest of us seem to have rearranged our usual time slots so the familar faces are not always there.

    Your Dad is so proud of you. I can tell. He just beams whenever your name is mentioned.

    I miss seeing you on the track, but am glad to be able to read about some of your experiences. I look forward to reading more. I love that name Coober Pedy. Has such an interesting sound.

    Chat with you later.

    Gale (Roadrunner)

    • Heather says:

      Gale!! So wonderful to hear from you :-)

      I remember during the summer how things around the gym change! Missing all of your smiling faces at 6am!!

      On that note, I’ve been going out for a jog/walk 2x a week and other days I pretty much walk everywhere. I’ve also been eating lots of sweets, so that has pretty much evened itself out O:-)

      Take care of yourself and keep in touch!!

  9. Jack McClane says:

    Another amazing blog entry. I’ve lived here my entire life and haven’t done that trip. I’ve seen plenty of Australia but that is one I can see in my not too distant future.

    Re Seppo. I can see from your point of view that it is not that nice a term but believe me, it really is a term of endearment. Aussies like to give nicknames to everyone! I think it may be in our DNA.

    That being said, I will definitely not call you a Seppo but I will try and think up a nickname for you – only if that is ok Ruddy?!

    See you tomorrow.

    Big J

    • Heather says:

      Haha, nicknames are totally okay! I’ve noticed that…the girl from Sydney gave a nickname to both of our tour guides — I’ll tell you more tomorrow :-)

  10. Dad says:

    Beautiful post Nae. Thank you for the time you invested so that those of us who love you can feel your experience. I love to give nicknames also…you know that about me. Especially to those I care about. It’s interesting to note the connotation of this particular term of endearment if you will…just from where I’m sitting, I cannot imagine saying to a foreign visitor, “Hi, I would like to give you a nickame. It means septic tank. Welcome to America! By the way, thank you for your business”.

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