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Roadtrip Australia: Van-Tastic Northern Territory - WILLIE & ANDREW Americans Willie and Andrew embark on the ultimate Aussie roadtrip as they motor around Northern Territory with Van-Tastic Adventures for six action-packed, free-wheeling weeks of adventure.


AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 4 April 2010 | Views [652] | Comments [4]

Speaking as an outsider traveling through, Australia certainly seems to have the most transient, amorphous population I’ve ever witnessed. From our first day in Adelaide all the way up to now, it seems like Australia is full of backpackers and tourists but a little low on actual residents. When driving up the Stuart Highway, we pass three types of vehicles: road trains, tour buses, and backpacker’s vans – not residents.

I’m sure that the rest of Australia is not like this. But here, in the Northern Territory, it certainly seems true. And I think that’s because the Northern Territory is not an easy place to live. It’s like living in an oven filled with swarming flies. In one week here, I’m already more tan than I’ve ever been in my life (and, yeah, it’s a super-stylish farmer’s tan). When I go outside in the day, flies flock to my face. I’ve accidentally swallowed a grand total of four flies so far (which is good, since I need the protein). When I go outside at night, it takes less than a minute for my entire leg to itch with mosquito bites and less than two for Willie to start asking if he’s showing signs of malaria (he’s not).

But some people do live here. Willingly! Not a lot of people, sure, but people nonetheless. And I have never, ever wondered why. Because the one common thread that I have seen over and over again in every NT resident I’ve met is an overwhelming lust for life.

Everybody here loves what they do. And I don’t just mean that they’re happy or content in it. I mean that there isn’t a single other thing they’d rather be doing in the entire world. Most of them seem to have displaced their entire lives to make a home for themselves in the Northern Territory.

In Coober Pedy we met Jimmy and Trevor, two men at the top of their game and absolutely in love with the mines. The locals talk about an opal addiction. They mention their first visit to Coober Pedy, almost always an unplanned one, an impromptu visit as they pass through on their way to someplace more traditionally alluring. But then they speak of the awe that overwhelmed them as they first laid eyes on the underground homes, or as they held a glittering and shimmering piece of opal in their palm. Trevor may have been the most enthusiastic person I’ve ever met. His love for the opal game oozed through his pores and inhabited his every word, as if just thinking of the precious gem would get his adrenaline running. And Jimmy, our Coober Pedy tour guide, spoke with the enviable knowledge of someone who’s lived and breathed a single community for the past four decades. He knew everything about the town. Everybody in town knew him. And for those few hours we were with him, we were wrapped up in that knowledge. It was strange, it was serene, and it was powerful.

Then we moved on to Uluru Kata-Tjuta park, where we met with a media officer named Troy. His job was simply to monitor what we filmed and photographed to make sure that we treated sacred Aboriginal sites with care and respect. But his love for the park and his surroundings was evident. We would prod him for information, and he would speak at length about the land with the respect and pride that a father might have for his son. He told us he’d moved up to Uluru Kata-Tjuta to work there for six months. But he’d stayed for two and a half years. And he was still going.

The Northern Territory really can overwhelm you with its beauty. I’ve seen things here that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to see anywhere else. But it is an undeniably tough place to live, the type of place you’d only move to if you absolutely love it. And that affection for the land is contagious. It makes this one of the most charming communities in the world.

by Andrew Adams

March 31, 2010

Tags: andrew adams, coober pedy, lust for life, northern territory, why live in australia, willie concepcion



well said. beautiful

  shaun Apr 4, 2010 7:24 PM


Andrew, I'd love to hear more about the nature of community in the NT, and what your thoughts are about how that approach might be shaping your own ideas about community. Really good writing.

  Jan Apr 7, 2010 11:53 PM


Love these types of comments and insights, keep them coming.

  Dimitri Apr 9, 2010 11:51 AM


something about the Northern Territory seems so overwhelmingly straightforward. The land says "here I am" and let's you say whatever you want right back. Seems like more often than not, there isn't much to be said but an incredible amount to take in.

  Morgan Apr 15, 2010 5:56 PM

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