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What is the Australian Outback?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 April 2014
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The Australian Outback is a large section of remote and wild Australia which has been the subject of myths, legends, and fascination ever since Europeans arrived on this interesting and incredibly diverse continent. In addition to hosting a rich and ancient native culture, the Outback also is home to a number of small settlements eking a living from the unforgiving soil. Visitors to Australia often try to make time to visit the Outback, since it has become such a cultural icon, and numerous companies lead tours of the region for people who are interested.

You may also hear the Australian Outback referred to as the “back of beyond” or “beyond the black stump.” Many Australians also differentiate between the Bush, the scrubby rural regions of Australia, and the true Outback, which supports much less life. There are a few settlements in the Outback, mainly mining camps taking advantage of the rich mineral deposits there, along with towns which cater to the tourism industry.

Early European explorers in Australia were the unwitting targets of a cruel trick. When people first arrived in Australia, it was during the rainy season, when the land explodes with greenery, and explorers duly reported back, stating that Australia was a rich garden of delights. When additional explorers arrived, they realized that Australia could actually be quite inhospitable, and this was exemplified by the Outback, which remained largely unexplored until the 1800s.

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Early visits to the Australian Outback did not go well. The native peoples of Australia did not appreciate visitors, and made it clear that they would prefer to be left alone, while the arid environment did not lend itself well to poorly equipped trips. Numerous attempts to travel across Australia ended in disaster in the Outback, adding to the mystique of the region.

Although people think of the Australian Outback as an arid desert, this natural feature is actually a bit more complex. Some parts of the Outback have a backing of rich clay soils which does support some greenery, allowing people to graze animals on the land, and feral camels, dingoes, and an assortment of other creatures can be found in the Outback, including an array of snakes, spiders, and curious creatures which evolved during the centuries that Australia was cut off from the rest of the world. The Outback also hosts Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, a famous cultural site and popular tourism destination.

Traveling in the Australian Outback can be dangerous. It is important to bring along ample supplies of water, as the Outback gets extremely hot, and some portions are infrequently traveled, so people need to have supplies to support themselves if they become stranded for some reason. Bringing extra cans of gas is sometimes recommended, along with food supplies. There are plenty of guided tours and trips for people who want a taste of the Australian Outback, and guides can also be arranged for more personalized, remote trips.

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GlassAxe
Post 2

@ GenevaMech- I have always had Australian travel at the top of my list of travel priorities. I am studying sustainability at Arizona State University, and I just found out that one of the courses I am taking next semester is offering a study abroad opportunity. The study abroad program involves taking a couple weeklong trip to Australia to study ecology. If I am lucky, I may be able to visit one of the wildest places on Earth and get school credit while I do it.

GenevaMech
Post 1

I have wanted to visit the Australian Outback since watching Quigley Down Under as a kid. My dream vacation would be to take a tagalong tour from the ocean to the outback. The tour is a 25-day long group four-wheel drive adventure filled with camping, sightseeing, and driving specialized four-wheel drive vehicles across the Australian countryside.

The tours are filled with danger, excitement, and a large dose of nature. You visit historic aboriginal sites, vast Outback deserts, and beautiful coastlines. You get to forge streams, climb sand dunes, and navigate rock trails. I probably won’t be able to take a tour like this until my daughter is older, but I am nevertheless still looking forward to an adventure like a tagalong tour across the outback.

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