T R AV E L
t is early morning as I join eight other Air Adventure guests at Essendon Airport to board our Cessna Conquest that is sleek, pencil-thin with plush leather seats, but there’s little room for more than our personal 10kg of luggage. Diplomatically, tour guide Elise Barassi suggests we rotate seats on a sector basis, each getting to play ‘co-pilot’ to 23-year-old pilot Jack Lancaster, who circulates an iPad with daily route maps, averting the possible question: “Are we there yet?” We refuel at Broken Hill then follow the 5400km rabbit-proof fence along the border between South Australia and New South Wales and land near Innamincka to lunch under the historic ‘Dig Tree’ of Burke and Wills fame. Believed to be some 250 years old, the Coolibah tree on the banks of the dried-up Cooper Creek, still bears the blaze carved on it during the explorers’ ill-fated attempt to be the first to cross the continent from south to north in the early 1860s. Our first overnight stop is at the famous Birdsville Hotel where we check out the atmospheric pub where well-worn country hats adorn the ceiling, and rustic memorabilia and Outback humour abound as patrons slake their thirst on cold beers. On a town tour, the star attraction is the out-oftown racetrack, dating from 1882. The Birdsville Race Club attracts some 5000 race-goers each
September for the Birdsville Cup where, we are told, because of the dust and heat: “The women arrive pretty and go home wilted.” Next day, with the vast pink-striped Simpson Desert to our west, we fly further north via Tennant Creek to Mount Borradaile in Arnhem Land. While initially aerial views might appear the same, they literally change by the minute, from red ochre patches to putty-coloured tracts, from rough rugged splotches to meandering inland waterways, where the fringes of dry creek beds resemble giant fronds. Tree-dotted creek beds disappear into the distance like wandering serpents from the Dreamtime and long dirt tracks seemingly lead somewhere but possibly go nowhere. Our scenic approach to Mount Borradaile is over bird-filled billabongs and rocky outcrops that give us a glimpse of what lies ahead. Former buffalo hunter Max Davidson first came to this remote area adjacent to Kakadu National Park and Cobourg Peninsula in the Northern Territory in 1985. Having been granted an exclusive lease of 700sq.km of wilderness by a tribal elder, he and his late wife, Philippa, soon set up Davidson’s Arnhem Land Safari Lodge, a tourism venture established to generate a sustainable income for the local Ulba Bunidj people. <
BAOBAB BEAUT Y Seeing the majestic Outback, including ancient baobab trees is all the more special when it’s from the air. F LY S T Y L E In these remote locales, private helicopter is the best, and in some cases, only, way to experience the landscape.
68 Mercedes-Benz magazine
3/02/16 2:12 PM
Mercedes-Benz magazine Issue 1, 2016