For reasons I do not fully understand, I connected with the outback, particularly in the Red Centre, at a deep level. As a result, on my first trip back, I made sure I spent time in the Centre. I spent a few days in Alice Springs and then headed out to Ross River Homestead, where I rented a cabin a bit more “away from it all.” I had underestimated my reaction on returning to this area, and had not planned nearly enough time. After three days, I had to leave Ross River, and I’m sure they thought it odd that tears were running down my face as they drove me back to Alice Springs. But it was very hard to leave, having had to work so hard to get back.
If you saw the movie Quigley Down Under, you’ve seen this area; this is the site they picked for recreating the outback cattle station (for non-Aussies, station=ranch). It’s located along the eastern stretch of the MacDonnell Range, a splendid, ancient, eroded range of red mountains that looks like the bones of the earth sticking through its red skin.
I had a splendid time at Ross River Homestead (one of the oldest homestead in the Northern Territory). I spent my days hiking among rock formations and along dried river beds, and my evenings listening to tales from local Aboriginal story tellers or learning about the area’s history.
The area around Ross River is made more wonderful by the wildlife. There is an astonishing variety of bird life, as the southern and northern bird habitats overlap here. There are also plenty of kangaroos. Having become accustomed to the presence of humans, they are often surprisingly close at hand. (The big ones are, anyway—they know they can take care of themselves—smaller ‘roos were still a bit shy.) Apparently, the paving stones in front of the cabins make a nice place to catch the sun—my guess is because it is a bit cooler than the surrounding red dirt. As a result, it was not uncommon to return to my cabin and find I had company.