The Explorers Highway stretches from Adelaide through Alice Springs, all the way to Darwin. It commemorates the many journeys made by explorer John McDouall Stuart who led the first successful expedition from north to south through the very centre of our enormous continent. Unlike many explorers of the time, he never lost a man and despite the harsh country and almost impossible conditions, each member of his team made it home safe and sound.
It is nice to know that modern day travel along the Explorers Highway is a more comfortable experience. Travellers can take their pick of comfortable caravan parks, shady roadhouses or remote roadside stops. Food and fuel are plentiful, and usually only a few hours’ drive away at any point along the road.
There is so much to explore along ‘the track’ and as you travel north, you will notice an increase in the number of floodways, creeks and rivers that contain water. McDouall Stuart and his exploration teams travelled for months from watering hole to watering hole, through the central desert country and towards the northern coastline. These days travel is much faster and drinking water is available every few hours from roadhouses and towns. While McDouall Stuart’s expeditions and your own adventures may be rather different experiences, there is one important similarity to keep in mind as you approach the Top End.
The waterways of Northern Australia have always been home to saltwater crocodiles. Between 1945 and 1971, hunting pressure reduced these magnificent beasts almost to extinction. Successful conservation measures since the early 1970’s have led to the recovery of the crocodile population. There are now as many crocs around as there were before hunting started, probably nearly as many as there were when McDouall Stuart and his team reached Chambers Bay on the 24 July 1862.
Always be croc wise when you are travelling in Northern Australia. Saltwater crocodiles are the perfect ambush predator. They are able to hide in clear, shallow or small waterways where you wouldn’t expect to find them. They sneak up unseen on unwary prey coming to drink at the water’s edge, and launch themselves from the water using only the strength of their muscular tails.
Stand well back from the water when you are fishing, camp at least 50 metres from the water and always dispose of all food and fishing rubbish as far from the water as possible.