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An Epic Aussie adventure – 9.5 weeks in the Australian outback

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A sunburnt country

These days, the word epic can be, in my opinion, a little over-used.  I blame TV reality programs for most of the overused words in today’s vocabulary.  Not that I watch them, but you sometimes can’t miss the advertisements.  Journey is another one.

But, when it comes to this trip, epic is really the first word that truly springs to my mind.  As you read it, I’m sure you will agree and will have a number of other equally impressive words that could easily be used as descriptors  by the time you’re done.

Matt Williams from More Dirt Less Bitumen completed a 9.5-week Australian adventure, covering an enormous 18,118km across some of this country’s harshest and most remote terrain.

With the red dust still clearly visible on his swag, and that wistful look in his eyes a sign that he still wanted to be out there, I sat down with Matt to get him to reflect on some highlights of the trip. 

But it was in Australia that I gained my first impressions of the beauty of the world, and it was the Bush that taught me.” Tom Roberts

Planning a road trip through the Australian outback

Driving through the Australian outback is an enormous undertaking.  Why did you want to do this?

It’s somewhere that I have always wanted to visit.  After being involved in the 4WD industry for over 10 years, and hearing all the stories of travelling through the desert, I knew that I just had to get out there and see it for myself.

I’m a photoholic, with a serious addiction to my camera, so the desire for me to capture the amazing landscapes of Central Australia has always been high on my list of “Things I need to do before I die!”

*Matt is also the outdoor and adventure photographer and owner of Matt Williams Photography*

I’m also an avid camper and 4 wheel driver with an adventurous spirit, who loves nothing more than the wide open spaces.  Exploring ones own country is also something that I am very passionate about.  The places that I went to on this trip, will never be seen by the majority of the Australian population.

18,118km is a huge distance.  What were you travelling in?

My wife and I went in a 76 series Land Cruiser Wagon, that was fully equipped and upgraded to meet the daily rigours of travelling through some of the most remote and harsh landscapes this big brown land has to offer.  We were like snails, with our home on our backs, carrying everything that we needed for up to weeks at a time,  without the luxury of being able to replenish fuel, food and supplies.

I imagine there’s not much accommodation out there.  What were your sleeping arrangements?

As I just said, we carried everything on our back, or at least the Cruiser’s back.  We had our swag on the roof rack, and at the end of every day, we needed to get it down off the rack and set it up.  If it looked like it might rain, we had an awning that was mounted off the side of the roof rack that was pretty quick and easy to set up as well.  When morning came, we packed it all up and hit the track.

You would have seen such incredible sights.  I know it’s always hard to pick highlights, but was there one thing you loved the most about the trip?

Without a doubt, one of the highlights, because there were many, was our visit to Uluru.  To be totally honest with you, before this trip, I didn’t really believe in magic. I know there are some pretty good illusionists out there, but magic?

After visiting Uluru, watching sunset, and then watching this big lump of red rock start to glow like there was a fire burning deep inside it, well, it’s just like magic.  It really needs to be seen to be believed.  It isn’t something that can be described.  It needs to be witnessed first hand.  Once you visit yourself, you will know what I mean!

Now you’re a savvy outdoors and 4WD person, but this is the tough outback.  What are the greatest challenges someone may experience on a trip like this?

The biggest challenge that anyone may experience on this trip is the isolation.  The fact that you are generally so far away from anything!  The planning and logistics of a trip like this is not something you can do in a couple of weeks.

I spent the best part of four months planning and preparing for this trip.  From organising permits from the Traditional Owners (permits to traverse are required for a lot of the tracks we travelled), to working out where we could get fuel, water and supplies, and places where we were going to camp for the night.  In the outback, your closest re-supply point may be more than 1000 km away!

Tips for planning a road trip through the Australian outback:

•    Make sure your vehicle is in A+ condition and take spares (belts, hoses, shocks etc).
•    Make sure you and your passengers are in A+ condition.
•    Don’t overload your vehicle.
•    Top up your fuel tanks whenever you can.  It’s a long way between service stations out there and you don’t want to run out.
•    Have good quality Light Truck (LT) Construction tyres, and have two spares.
•    Ensure you have proper communications.  I’m not talking about mobile phones either.  The only thing a mobile phone is good   for out here is to wake you up for another cracking sunrise!  A UHF radio is the minimum, but with a very small working range, these can’t be relied upon in the case of an emergency.  A Satphone is a much better option, and can be hired from various outlets.  An EPIRB is another item that should be in your 4WD, along with a good quality fire extinguisher.
•    A full complement of recovery gear is also vital, and really, this gear should never leave your 4WD.
•    The ability to carry enough water for all occupants is critical.
•    Last but not least – your camera!  You want to be able to take some awesome photos to make all your friends jealous when you get home. 

The beauty of outback Australia

The interior of Australia provided Matt and his insatiable appetite for photos plenty of great content.  With around 30,000 images taken during this trip, he looked at me a little strangely when I asked if he could pick some of his highlights.

It was a difficult task but he managed to do it.  So please, take some time to now pore over the beauty and diversity that is outback Australia.

Highlights

Thorny Devil on the Canning Stock RouteBefore I set out on this Epic Aussie Adventure, I wanted, above all else to see one of these little critters.  Not being a wildlife photographer, I really had no idea how easy or hard that would be.  So, to think that I saw this guy towards the end of only our 3rd day on the road, I was pretty pumped. 

As it was, I drove straight over the top of him, as he was right in the middle of the track.  A quick stop and a grab of my camera, I was lucky that he was exactly where I had seen him.  All up, we saw another two on our travels.

Sunrise at Well 33

A windmill at sunset is one of those images that just screams the Aussie bush to me.  After a big day on the Canning Stock Route (CSR), the sky exploded with colour at our camp at Well 33 near the aboriginal community of Kunawarritji. 

Kunawarritji is the only  community along the CSR between Billiluna in the north and Wiluna in the south.  A distance of around 1700 km.

Eighty Mile Beach

Being a Queenslander (on the east coast of Australia) I don’t get to see the sun drop into the ocean very often.  So when we made it all the way to 80 Mile Beach on the west coast, there was no way in the world I was going to miss sunset. 

We were joined by about another 200 travellers and holiday makers down on the beach as we enjoyed a cold drink before heading back to camp for dinner.

wedge-tailed eagle- planning-a-roadtrip-through-outback-australia

The Wedge-Tailed Eagle is a sight to behold at any time of the day.  In the early morning light, perched in an old dead tree – it doesn’t get much better for me.  I stalked this guy for about 10 minutes, inching closer and closer before finally spooking him.  But it was ok, I got the shot that I wanted.

Gunbarrel Hwy outback australiaSome of the tracks are so bad in the desert, that after awhile, new tracks are made next to the existing track.  This process continues and continues as can be seen here on the Gunbarrel Highway in Western Australia. 

This highway is notorious for endless corrugations that are so bad that your fillings can fall out!  Not to mention the pounding that your vehicle takes.

Sunrise on the Connie Sue

My absolute favourite time of the day.  Sunrise. I’ve always been an early riser, so it’s never a hassle for me to get myself out of the swag in anticipation for what the new day holds.  Add in some puffy clouds, and I’m in my happy place.  This shot was taken on the Connie Sue Highway,  just to the south of Warburton, WA.

Dingo on the Connie Sue Hiway

Australia’s apex predator, the dingo, can be found all through the deserts, and can be a somewhat elusive animal to photograph.  Thankfully we ran in to this guy.  And I mean that literally!  Well, we nearly ran in to him.  We rounded a tight corner, and there he was right in the middle of the track. 

After a couple of seconds, he casually moved off the track, heading towards the drivers side.  Luckily, I was driving, so I grabbed my camera and fired off a few frames before he headed in to the spinifex.

Connie Sue Highway

Being a bit of a weather nut (which dovetails nicely with my photography obsession), I couldn’t believe these clouds as we headed south towards Neale Junction, where the Connie Sue and Anne Beadell Highways intersect. 

It was as though the clouds were trying to mimic the corrugated track we had been driving along all day.  The rich red dirt is so very typical of the colour of the soil in the Australian deserts.

Sunrise on the Trans Access RoadApart from seeing all of these wonderful landscapes and amazing wildlife, it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good if I wasn’t sharing it with my awesome wife.  Watching sunrises like this on the Trans Continental Railway Access Track are best shared.

Aerial view of the spinifex rings on the Anne Beadell - planning a road trip through the australian outback

Prior to heading away on this trip, I purchased a drone.  The different perspective that this device gives me just blows me away.  In the South Australian section of the Great Victoria Desert, there grows the most amazing areas of spinifex.  These can only truly be appreciated from above, as the plants grow in circular formations from the centre out.

Stars over Uluru

Uluru.  If you read the story above, you’ll know what I think about this place.  And if you thought it couldn’t get any more magical, well a little shooting star just zips across your frame doesn’t it!

Hay River TrackThe dunes of the Simpson Desert just go on forever and ever and ever.  Some r

eports state that there are over 1100 north-south running dunes alone.  When you get to the top of one, stop and get out of your 4WD.  Regardless of which way you look, there are sand dunes.  In the early morning and late afternoon, these dunes typify the colours of Central Australia.

A tough but beautiful place

Whether you are an Australian or not, one fact will never be argued.  The Australian continent is massive, with so much of it virtually inhabitable, and other parts incredibly difficult to live in, or traverse. 

For those who live in the bush or outback,  life is significantly different from the lives lived by those on or in close proximity to the coast.

The outback holds a rare and unique beauty, unlike any other part of the world.  It’s what interests, intrigues and sometimes frightens Aussies and visitors alike.

It’s a land of vast contrasts, tied together with some of the most wonderful people you will ever meet in the world.  It’s my home, it’s a home I’m proud of, and it’s the place I always love returning to after any overseas adventure.

I haven’t ventured into the outback yet, but I am thankful that I have these stories and Matt’s images to inspire me, and make me wonder, in the meantime.

As a child, I learnt this poem by Australian writer, Dorothea Mackellar.  Even today, these words still ring true.

“I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!”

If you are planning a road trip through the Australian outback, this article will give you plenty of great tips and images to spark your wanderlust.

Note:  Matt Williams from Matt Williams Photography holds the copyright to all images in this article. The images are used in this article with his full permission.

Planning a trip to the outback?  You’ll need items like this to keep you comfortable.

56 thoughts on “An Epic Aussie adventure – 9.5 weeks in the Australian outback”

  1. Wow! This is incredible! You’re totally right that this should be labelled as an epic journey.

    I’ve not yet had the pleasure to go to Australia but have always wanted to (not sure I’m quite tough enough for the outback). The photos in here are fantastic. Matt – considered yourself followed.

    I’d love to see more interviews like this – complete wanderlust inspiration! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Justine, thanks so much for taking the time to read this. I really loved the spirit of the whole piece and I felt like I learned so much from Matt at the same time. I honestly don’t know how he travelled some of it, but if the photos are anything to go by, it was well worth the effort.

  3. Amazing! First, I have to say; pictures are incredible! Road-tripping around Australia is probably on everyone’s bucket list and it should be! We need to go back to this part of the world to tick off this item too!

  4. A great post. As you said ‘Epic’ like ‘Awesome’ are such overused words, often used to describe something trivial like a cup of coffee. However, we forgive you, Matt’s road trip is truly an ‘EPIC’ experience.
    The distances are vast and there must be a real sense of how insignificant we are when alone under that big sky.
    Matt’s pics are excellent, they really capture the spirit of the outback.

  5. Wow what an epic adventure. I love to doa Roadtrip too. Australia is high on my list. .. oh that ULURU isso stunning – ive seen many photos of this place as you said its magical and i want to see it for myself too. Stunning photos btw

  6. OK. These photos are everything. What a lucky photographer to get a shooting star in his photo. WOW. I might have move Australia higher up on my bucket list now…

  7. We plan to spend a lot more time exploring the middle of Australia over the next few years although our style is a little less rustic with a caravan. Matts photos are an inspiration to get on with it sooner rather than later.

  8. Thanks Mel and Marcus. I’m pleased you agree as I use the word very carefully. It is a vast country and there is so much isolation out there, only truly understood I imagine when you are out there amongst it all.

  9. You are right, I can definitely see why the word epic was used. That is exactly how I would describe this! I have always just wanted to jump in my 4wd and go. The photos are amazing and description is great. Makes me want to get in my car and go!

  10. Road tripping in Australia sounds like a challenging, yet rewarding experience. I think it’s best that i leave it to the professionals and live vicariously though them. Lol. And the photos are breathtaking!!

  11. That’s an insane amount of land to cover but those photos are unreal. So many of them would be perfect as postcards or framed in my house! I’ve not yet been to Oz but I just had a good friend move there so I’m hoping to make it soon. I hope to leave w/pics like this!

  12. Such a vast continent indeed hard to do justice to all incredible sights one gets there. I was continuously distracted from reading by the beautiful pics.
    And silly me always thought Australia is famous for kangaroos and koalas. πŸ˜› πŸ™‚

  13. Wow, what gorgeous photos and an amazing road trip – not for the faint of heart I would think!! Down Under is on our list we will save your info for a future trip !

  14. Simply outstanding pictures of the Australian outback. Any person who loves road trips…even those who don’t usually do it, will be tempted after seeing this post. Sounds out of this world.

  15. What an amazing adventure! Hats off to Matt and his wife – they must be a very intrepid couple. I’m not sure I could manage 9.5 weeks but perhaps the Australian outback is addictive? And I don’t need to say that Matt’s photos are incredible. The drone really brings a sense of perspective as to the size of the outback. I’ll definitely check out Matt’s website!

  16. What incredible photography! And yes, epic is the right word to describe it! I love the red colours of the Australian outback. I’ve only ever travelled along Australia’s east coast and down to Melbourne, never into the outback. I think it would be magical (and very lengthy!)

  17. OMG, though the pictures are stunning, I could never take that much “isolation” as he refers to it. Great post and I certainly will appreciate those pictures much more know understanding what goes into that trip.

  18. Just done OZ for a year and now this is the most insane route around Oz i’ve ever seen haha ! if we had the car you had we would of gone a lot further off the beaten track than we did. Great post and get photos πŸ˜€

  19. I spent only 1 week in the Australian Outback. Definitely not enough, plus I missed a couple of hikes due to extreme heat. These poetic pictures and interview remind me that I need to go back again, some day. Thanks for sharing

  20. The photos from this man called Matt are truly amazing and epic. I swear I can’t stop looking at that lizard! The Australian wildlife is incredible. Everyone knows that. You mention that one of the downsides of this trip is the isolation. I think that’s one of the good thinks about it! Great post. Cheers,

  21. Such stunning images, this is the kind of trip myself and my husband want to take. We’ve done one trip to the outback to date and tried our best to get a shot of a thorny dragon but no luck! So it’s awesome that Matt got such a fantastic photograph!

    So glad that he highlighted that the planning and logistics of a trip like this is not something you can do in a couple of weeks. Aus is a really tough country, and you need to be prepared if you’re heading into remote areas for this period of time. Such a rewarding journey though for those willing to go for it!

  22. I’m totally gobsmacked by the quality of your pictures. First class! I’d love to go on a trip like this, but not having a driver’s license that stop me from doing so. πŸ™

  23. Thanks Meg, The planning was definitely a big task for him, especially where the permits came into play. As is typical with government, there were some fairly onerous processes to go through, and costly too. You also need to be careful of where you can and can’t take photos in a lot of these areas.

  24. Yes the isolation is so much more than just being by yourself. There is quite literally nothing out there. It’s a scary isolation at times I think. (or at least it could be to different people)

  25. Thanks Emily, his work is definitely incredible. And yes, full kudos to them for doing this. 9.5 weeks in that environment is not something I’d probably be itching to do. A smaller trip for me perhaps.

  26. It sure is Nathan. That’s why us Aussies don’t have any trouble driving a few thousand kms on trips….we do it all the time. Although this trip is not for the faint hearted! Hope you get to OZ one day, your friend will definitely be an incentive.

  27. The images are beautiful! Would be hard to disconnect and critters don’t attract me but this place seems worth a visit. Especially those views of the stars. ?

  28. Again, thank you for sharing this Kerri. What a joy to read, I do like the pictures but reading the words are just simply inspirational. You are right Matt’s adventure was truly an epic one. I cannot begin to imagine the planning, patience and pure luck that came with each photo. Thank you again Kerri.

  29. My mouth was wide open while reading this – literally jaw dropping! I’m currently doing a pretty awesome Aussie road trip – Melbourne to Darwin via Perth, down the centre to Adelaide and then back up inland SA, NSW and QLD to get to Cairns then back down the coast to Melbourne – but this knocked mine out of the park! It sounds absolutely incredible and I’ll definitely be referring this to any future Aussie outback trips I may embark on!

  30. What a fantastic trip! It is on our to do list but we need to prepare the kids a little bit more before we do a road trip that long. We are starting with a few week trips initially and work our way up to long term.
    What a great read!

  31. Wow, these photos are gorgeous. My husband is from Australia and talks about the Outback a lot, and the lack of anything there. I don’t know that I’d do a trip like this but definitely to see Uluru which I’ve heard incredible things about.

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