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April 28, 2001

Overland Australia - overview 3

Route Planner
4 main stages: Tropical Rainforest, Floodplain, Desert and Northern Territories.

Tropical Rainforest: Cape York is about as wild as it gets for Australia. Not too many people realise it but this region of the country is covered in tropical jungle and for five months of the year (November to April) subject to a torrential rainy season making any overland passage impossible.


We would plan to start our Australian odyssey at the mouth of the Starke River on the NE coast of Cape York, using the old mining and logging tracks (marked only on highly detailed topographical maps) to wind our way through the dense jungle and up over the Great Dividing Range mountains into the central flood plains.

Flood Plain: Our route will then take us through Lakefield National Park (one of the last refuges of the Cassowary - a huge flightless bird drastically reduced in numbers now to near extinction), Battle Camp (the site of a major battle during the 1873 Palmer River gold rush) and past countless old gold mines (now abandoned) that are the only remaining testament to the frenzied fever of the gold rush that swept through the country back in the 19th and early 20th centuries.


Desert: the central desert of Australia was the arena for countless legendary exploits of the early explorers and pioneers. Take 'Russian Jack' for example, who once carried an injured 'digger' colleague 300 km in his wheelbarrow. Or the gold prospector Harold Lassetter who, in 1930, led an infamous but ill-fated expedition in search of a 'golden reef' in the desert around Uluru. After the camels bolted and an internal dispute split up the group, Lassetter continued on alone but never made it back. His journal - later recovered in the cave where he spent his final days waiting in vain to be rescued - details his discovery and pegging of the reef, but no exact location.

We'll be following in Lassetters's footsteps along the Lassetter Highway toward The Canning Stock Route that leads over a thousand miles across the Great Sandy Desert. At times we can expect for midday temperatures to reach up to 50 degrees Celsius. One of the highlights will be passing around Uluru (Ayers Rock) - the geographical hub of Australia and a spiritual focal point for Aborigines - before heading north towards Darwin.

Northern Territory: before arriving in Darwin we'll pass through Kimberly and Kakadu National Park where over 5,000 Aboriginal rock art sites - some of them over 40,000 years old - can be explored.

All along the route we expect to come into contact with a tremendous range of flora and fauna that have been evolving separately from the rest of the world since Australia broke from the southern super-continent of Gondwana over 100 million years ago. The Macdonnell Ranges near Alice Springs for example contain nearly 600 native plant species alone. Apart from dodging the 'salties' (crocs) for the first third of the trip, we'll also be bumping into unique animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, emus, cockatoos, bandicoots, dingoes, and of course a huge array of snakes (two of the most deadly being the Taipan and the Death Adder), spiders and an amazing variety of lizards including various large goannas and dragons.

Posted on April 28, 2001 1:41 PM