In every direction, fire-red sand fanned out across the land. Everything that wasn’t red seemed covered in it: the boab trees, the spinifex, the termite mounds stretching like tiny Towers of Babel towards the sky. The road itself shimmered like a sea of rubies. We were just hours from Alice Springs, Australia’s de facto inland capital, and already alone on the Tanami Track.
As it happens, that’s part of the appeal.
The Tanami, as locals call it, is one of Australia’s greatest Outback adventure tracks. The 1,077km road bisects the namesake Tanami Desert – one of the most isolated and arid regions in the world – connecting the Red Centre and Kimberley region, the country’s rugged north-west frontier.
Although the route is mostly traversed by ranchers and lorries running to the remote Granites goldmine, plus the odd feral camel, the Tanami also attracts intrepid travellers who come for the raw scenery, the bush camping and the notoriety for driving across one of Australia’s longest and most challenging roads.
Once we passed Tilmouth Well, a lonely roadhouse 180km north of Alice Springs and one of the last fuel stops for hundreds of kilometres, I quickly realised how daunting this drive could be.