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The North of Australia

In the rainy season only accessible by air: The outback behind Darwin is crisscrossed by many watercourses. Bridges are scarce / © Photo: Georg Berg

In the rainy season only accessible by air: The outback behind Darwin is crisscrossed by many watercourses. Bridges are scarce / © Photo: Georg Berg

Avoiding well-trodden paths is the best advice for an eventful trip to Australia. The continent is too big to really get to know on a round trip – starting in Sydney or Melbourne. So why not just limit yourself to the north, which is also a shorter journey? The sparsely populated Northern Territory is almost four times the size of Germany, but has only a quarter of a million inhabitants, half of whom live in the port city of Darwin. The climate here is tropical and instead of seasons there is only the rainy season and the dry season. The latter coincides (from May to September) with the European summer and is definitely the best time to travel.

Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory can be reached faster from Germany than Sydney or Melbourne after a stopover in Singapore / © Photo: Georg Berg
The welcome “down under” is refreshingly direct. You quickly get used to the left-hand traffic, the Australian traffic signs and the huge dimensions / © Photo: Georg Berg

Named after naturalist Charles Darwin, the city is now a lively metropolis with a casual lifestyle and interesting cultural offerings. Friendly people with strange customs live here. It is a must to plan several day tours to the surrounding national parks Kakadu and Litchfield. The highlight of the trip can be the 20,000 year old rock paintings as evidence of the world’s oldest living culture. They can be visited on the spot with a few licensed guides. Since the Aborigines still live according to old traditions and values, a visit there must be announced in time.

Long Tom Dreaming – The guide Thommo (name changed) explains the 20,000 year old Aborigine art of his ancestors / © Photo: Georg Berg

Australian feel-good atmosphere

Maybe it’s because of the sparse population. But even in the big city of Darwin, it is noticeable that people here are very friendly with each other and take their time. As a stranger, you feel at home right away, even if you are immediately confronted with many unfamiliar impressions.

For a relaxed taste of the North Australian way of life, you can visit the sunset market in Mindil Beach on Thursdays and Sundays. A variety of mainly Asian dishes satisfy curiosity and satisfy hunger.

After sunset, locals in particular enjoy the after-work market at Darwin’s Mindil Beach / © Photo: Georg Berg

Together, the locals enjoy the sunset with their visitors. Musicians and street artists are playing. Along the way, you get an idea that Darwin once held the world record for per capita beer consumption.

Mark Hoffmann, didgeridoo and Tor Trethowan, drums form the formation eMDee and play, when they are not touring internationally, at the Mindil Sunset Market / © Photo: Georg Berg

A stage at the Mindil after-work market is densely packed, and the group eMDee performs here regularly. Mark Hoffmann plays the didgeridoo, accompanied only by a drummer. The didgeridoo is the typical instrument of the Australian Aborigines. The stage is surrounded mainly by members of this ethnic group and I learn in passing that he is highly respected for his music and is even occasionally invited by the elders to traditional ceremonies. Appreciated by the descendants of the indigenous people living in their traditions is how well he masters the instrument, but has never tried to shine by performing traditional pieces.

The strange beer contest at the Humpty Doo Hotel

Speaking of beer consumption, definitely worth a side trip is the world-famous Humpty Doo Hotel, located just south of Darwin. It has become famous for its regular Darwin Stubby Contest. Stubbies are what beer bottles are called in Australia and especially in Darwin they had a capacity of 2.25 liters for a long time. The eternal record holder managed to empty one such stubby in one minute and 54 seconds.

The counter of the world-famous Humpty Doo Hotel. Proudly displayed here is a copy of the now disallowed Darwin Stubby, a beer bottle of 2.25 liter capacity. It used to be drunk empty not only by Brahman bulls but also by humans in a race. Humpty Doo is known throughout Australia for its stubby competition / © Photo: Georg Berg
The covered terrace of the world famous Humpty Doo Hotel. Here, people drink beer from tankards / © Photo: Georg Berg
The Australian Coopers writes instead of an expiration date: BEST AFTER. The reason: After the brewing process, a second bottle fermentation process is initiated, which is completed after 14 days. Before opening, the bottles should be rolled so that the desired cloudiness can fully develop. / © Photo: Georg Berg

One of the most famous cinemas in Australia

It is mainly the time from sunset onwards when things get sociable in Darwin. The temperature drops to comfortable levels. The temperature in Darwin has virtually no outliers throughout the year. Rule of thumb: It never gets warmer than 33 degrees during the day and no colder than 20 degrees at night.

Located on a beach is the Deckchair Cinema, famous throughout Australia, where you can end the day in a wonderful way. In a relaxed atmosphere and with a cool drink you can enjoy classic movies in a deckchair.

The Deckchair Cinema offers sophisticated program cinema. Shortly before the screening, a cruise ship disappears on the horizon and everyone gets free insect repellent against mosquitoes / © Photo: Georg Berg

The adventure really begins in the outback

Darwin is the starting point for adventurous tours into the outback. The national parks Litchfield and Kakadu can be reached comfortably by different means of transport. From Darwin airport you can take small charter planes to many different destinations. Everywhere in the bush there are landing strips or you can book a seaplane with which the pilot can land on one of the many billabongs. During the rainy season they meander as rivers through the flat coastal area. In the dry season, often only single patches of water remain from the rivers, which form an excellent habitat for Australian wildlife.

In the rainy season only accessible by air: The outback behind Darwin is crisscrossed by many watercourses. Bridges are scarce / © Photo: Georg Berg

Australian top-end luxury in the middle of the buffalo herd

If you think a trip to one of the most remote areas of the already sparsely populated continent is exhausting and depriving, Bamurru Plains Lodge can prove you wrong. The private accommodations distributed on the extensive area of the lodge, stand on stilts, are discreetly furnished and give for it the direct contact to nature. Far away from home and work, neither the Internet nor mobile phones are missed after a short time. The senses open up to new stimuli.

Unobstructed panoramic view from the bedroom. The furnishings could not be more appropriate / © Photo: Georg Berg

Magnetic termites in Litchfield National Park

Litchfield National Park with its spectacular waterfalls is easily accessible by car from Darwin. Because of the rocky environment, the waterholes there can be relatively well protected from crocodiles. So after a hike to the Magnetic Termites the refreshment in the crystal clear water comes in very handy.

Magnetic Termites build their narrow mounds exactly in north-south direction / © Photo: Georg Berg
Refreshment in the clear water at the foot of Wangi Falls in Litchfield National Park / © Photo: Georg Berg
Very low crocodile danger! Crocodile safety is very important, like here at Wangi Falls in Litchfield National Park / © Photo: Georg Berg

The Aboriginal culture is still alive in the north

The Northern Territory is extremely sparsely populated with less than 250,000 inhabitants. In addition, it is mainly here that the descendants of the Australian aborigines still live according to their traditional rules. If you can still drive into the national parks yourself with a vehicle, you have to rely on the few guides who enjoy the trust of the landowners for access to Aboriginal settlements. However, it is also worthwhile for travelers to find a good guide. The imagination of even well-traveled tourists is hardly sufficient for the multitude of possible cultural misunderstandings.

Gabriel (left), the decision-maker of the people’s community from Gumbalanya in conversation with Sab Lord (right), who grew up as a white man on his father’s ranch in Arnhemland and today accompanies tour groups through the various tribal areas as one of the best-informed guides / © Photo: Georg Berg

Travel advice: Australia for European Tourists

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The research trip was supported by the Tourism Office of the Northern Territory

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