27-Sep-2003 -- My partner, Collin decided to surprise me for my birthday by flying us both to Alice Springs in Central Australia for a 1500 km road trip up to the Northern Territorial Capital, Darwin. He also got me a GPS that I had to study on the Qantas flight going there if we were to have any luck in finding our first degree confluence.
At that stage (Sept 2003) only four confluences were visited in the Northern Territory out of 121, (two of which were shared with other Australian states) as the territory is sparsely settled, has a very harsh terrain, is full of deadly snakes and crocodiles and many areas are not accessible to non-indigenous people as there is really only one road heading north south and one heading east west.
We found one do-able confluence spot with various topographical maps, that did not involve a 20km death march or 200m high cliffs or croc infested waters; namely 15 degrees south, 132 degrees east, about 60km south-west of the tough but charming little cattle town of Katherine. We had to travel along 30km along a rough, and in parts sandy, dirt road (which we weren’t meant to drive in our “family” front wheel drive rental sedan!). I had my reservations about making such a trip in such a city car, even asking a local friendly cattle station worker, named Ben, if he could drive us there in his big (and "tough" as the crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin, would describe) Toyota 4WD; he thought we were crazy, he couldn't commit (to driving us out there, anyway - probably didn’t want to get his Toyota dirty...), wished us luck and we swapped phone numbers for next time he's in Sydney, the big gorgeous hunk of man that he was!!!!
An early start for us two “guppies” (that is gay urban professionals) to get there before the heat of the day. By 9am, the temperature was already around 33 degrees Celsius with about 80 percent humidity. What to wear was difficult too, as we would need protection against the spiky Spinifex type grass and needed to ditch our comfy shorts, t-shirts and sandals for tough (dare I say, butch!) Blunnies (Tasmanian made Blundstone boots), moleskin trousers and long sleeved shirts. Talk about being bloody hot! We were apprehensive about deadly snakes and even crocs in this part of the world, and, more likely, how would my city slicker partner survive the estimated 2-hour hike without his beloved Lavazza coffee?
The country as it turned out was totally unfenced, mostly flat, and lightly timbered, but with many termite mounds up to 3m in height. With the new but already trusty little Garmin Legend in our hands, we walked (pranced?) past the many tall termite mounds and dodging the prickly Spinifex for about 1.4km from the road. Fortunately no sightings of crocs, snakes or other beasties. This is such a remote yet unremarkable area, that I felt we were the first people to have roamed this lonely corner of the world – there was certainly no signs of human life ever being through there, and, up till now, why would there? Certainly no two prancing poofs from Sydney anyway. We felt quite humbled by this thought and ensured we’d leave nothing but footprints
Finally after about 45 mins hard walking from the car, we find our confluence spot, although it was near impossible to get precisely all those zeros on our GPS and then to photograph it in the, by now, 40-degree Celsius (105 Fahrenheit ) heat, we finally find the exact point and celebrate with some “Iced Vo Vo” biscuits and Gatorade. I carefully marked our car earlier as our wayward point and we were surprised at how easy and accurate it was to get back to it, despite our southern bird brains telling us we were too far to the east. We also thank our luck we didn’t get bitten by anything (although I think I could’ve handled a nip from the butch number named Ben…) or die of heat stress, only of bad fashion sense as the pictures prove. Now to drive back to relatively civilised Katherine with the air-con on full and a decent double de-caff latte hopefully waiting for us. We wonder when big Ben would call? This certainly was an interesting birthday adventure! Wonder what confluence we’ll do next September… ?