We were fangin’ down the Stuart Highway, watching everything turn yellow as the sun approached the horizon. It had been a while since we raced the sun. This time, it wasn’t to find camp before dark but to get to Devils Marbles before sunset.
Needless to say we made it. We even had time to find a place to park, make dinner and meet our camp neighbours George and Mary who were from Shepparton in Victoria. We sat down with them and shared the glow of their tea light candle over drinks and travel stories.
The Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve is one of the most iconic places in Australia’s outback and one of the most visited reserves in the NT. It protects one of the oldest religious sites in the world and is of great cultural and spiritual significance to the traditional owners of the land. Karlu Karlu means ‘round boulders’ and also refers to the surrounding area. The English name comes from a guy called John Ross, who was part of the 1870 Australian Overland Telegraph Line expedition. He said, “This is Devil’s country; he’s even emptied his bag of marbles around the place!”
The shallow valley that the conservation park protects is covered with large granitic boulders that have been exposed to onion weathering, whereby curved shards of rock are peeled off to create the spherical shape. Cracks caused by thermal stress weathering can go so deep into the boulders that they split straight in half!
Camping is super cheap – only $3.30 pp/night and the campground is right amongst the boulders. It was packed out with caravans, campervans and buses but we managed to squeeze into a spot and still enjoy the amazing landscape that surrounded us. The toilet next to camp was super smelly and scary as hell, but the toilets next to the info booth were quite pleasant.
At about 1am, Juz went for a toilet run. The moon was waning, the night air was cool and the only sound she could hear was the crunching of gravel under her thongs. She started to psych herself out, thinking about Bradley Murdoch and Ivan Milat. “This is how people disappear in the desert”, she thought to herself.
In the morning, we listened to kids howling like dingos before getting up to catch the sunrise over Devils Marbles. It was too cloudy to be spectacular, so we climbed some boulders and did the informative walk next to the information booth. The split boulder reminded Juz of Monkey Magic – “Born from an egg on a mountain top!”
About 30km south of Devils Marbles is the UFO Centre of Australia. This hilarious attraction is worth the stop.
We met a cute little kitten at the entrance to the general store, which had a plethora of alien souvenirs. The walls were covered in newspaper clippings of UFO sightings and they also happened to have an excellent beer selection.
As we ventured into the caravan park to check out more statues, we were amused by donkeys that were wandering about opening bins and rummaging for scraps.