Just being in the Northern Territory is an adventure. The skies are so wide you can see clear into Queensland, lizards stare back at you from the middle of the road, and you can drive as fast as you like so long as you hang one elbow out the window (especially if it’s a ute, mate).

But if that’s not enough, create your own adventure. Hire a car or even better, a 4WD, in Alice Springs and the car hire company is likely to throw a couple of swags in the back for you. Whether you’re headed for the relative luxury of a campsite at magical Uluru, or heading out into the MacDonnell Ranges, you can wake up in a red dawn (brush off the flies and ants) and sit around a campfire for breakfast.

There’s no need to rough it. We arrived at the campground at Yulara, after a sensational and very fast drive, in time for sunset over Uluru and a late night swim in the deserted pool. Yulara is more a mini-metropolis than a large resort, with hotels, pizza bars, supermarkets and a range of restaurants (mostly over-priced). But let’s face it, you’re not there for the food. It’s the landscape and the culture and the creatures that matter. We lounged about and stared up at the stars, and a bright green gecko crawled over my foot. You can’t ask for much more than that.

At dawn the next morning we woke up in our swags to find ourselves surrounded by curious German tourists. They were not looking at the Rock. They were looking at us. I don’t know why. I don’t think we looked that queer. It might have been my Hawaiian shirt-themed cruise ship pyjamas that caught their eye. Or my girlfriend emerging fully dressed from her swag, in a mini-skirt. Or perhaps the inflatable pillows filled with purple and pink feathers from the last Mardi Gras launch.

If a swag-style adventure seems just a little too butch, you can have your damper and eat it too. Sahara Outback Tours operate small group camping trips to such remarkable spots as Glen Helen Gorge and Palm Valley. Camping is the operative word. At certain times of year, Sahara’s buses are as queer as Priscilla. In fact, one tourist on a recovery trip after the recent Gay Games celebrated his birthday by riding on top of the 4WD bus with silver streamers flowing behind him. This was followed, of course, by a small dance party in hallowed Kings Canyon -“ Sahara HQ received an emergency call from the driver: Disco lights required, urgently! Rest assured that there are camping trips for quiet people as well.

Equally willing to cater to the specific needs of our community is Outback Ballooning, which launched a huge rainbow balloon for its dawn flight after last year’s annual SpinFX dance in Alice. Needless to say, only the women were able to cope with the idea of floating gently along on the mistral on the morning after the night before, but you have to give those strapping balloon chaps points for trying. On any normal morning in Alice Springs, barring strong winds, you can experience the wonders of flying across the desert at dawn -“ all you have to do is get up at 4am, and choke down a chicken and champagne breakfast. There seems to be an awful lot of getting up at the crack of dawn involved in adventure holidays, but it’s worth the pain.

So, too, is the best damn bush bashing you’ll ever experience. Outback Quad Adventures pick you up from your hotel (long after dawn), stick a helmet on your head, plant your thumb on the throttle of a huge four-wheeled motor bike, and point you in the direction of the MacDonnell Ranges. And off you go.

Nick and friends guide you through tracks across one of the Territory’s oldest cattle stations, along sandy old river beds, through scrub scattered with stock, eventually to execute a jump over a ramp that you’ll relive in your sleep (it gets bigger in retrospect, like most things). All around is that sensational landscape, with the ranges in the background, and even an eagle circling above, perhaps to pick up any pieces. It’s a focused, crazed kind of fun, and you can’t help letting out the odd whoop of delight as you tear along the track. At the end, you’re covered from head to toe in layers of dust, with one sore thumb and a smile as wide as the great outdoors.

Kelly Gardiner stayed in Alice Springs courtesy of the Outback Inn. Story courtesy of the Gay Australia Guide.

USEFUL CONTACTS

-”Outback Quad Adventures
08 8953 0697 or sales@outbackquadadventures.com.au
-”Outback Ballooning
08 8952 8723, 1800 809 790 or sales@outbackballooning.com.au
-”Sahara Tours 08 8953 0881or sahara@saharatours.com.au

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