I'm sitting under a corrugated roof on the terrace of the remotest bar in Australia. It's 45°C so forgive me if this comes out a bit weird. The thing is, it is all a bit weird up here in the "top end" of Australia. I'm in the Northern Territories, an area that can easily fit Great Britain into it 10 times but has a population of only 200,000.
It can be a scary place for the innocent traveller. Joanne Lees, the backpacker whose boyfriend, Peter Falconio, was murdered on the Stuart Highway just near here, has just released a book about the affair, so the Australian newspapers are full of stories of serial killers and people disappearing in the bush. You can see how it could happen. Today, we drove for six hours and didn't see a single person. From where I'm sitting, it's a good 200 miles to the nearest township. Burying a body or two up here is a breeze.
Helping us with the filming are two guides: Kevin, a dour young Aussie who looks like he would kill you for a smoke; and Booner, an old Crocodile Dundee figure who carries a 10in knife, two handguns and a chainsaw in the back of his beaten-up old truck.
On our first night camping in the bush they both tried to freak us out with tales of fights gone wrong and backpackers being hacked up in campsites by lunatic cattle-station owners. We tried to look unconcerned and travel-hardened as we knocked back as much as we could of the lethal Bundaberg Rum that everyone drinks up here. It worked well as an anaesthetic and we were soon flat on our backs looking at the canopy of stars above.
Pete suggested that we watch a film - big mistake. We'd picked up a popular local DVD called Wolf Creek back in Darwin, so we slipped it into one of our laptops and had ourselves our very own outdoor cinema. The film was shot close to where we were camping and it was a charming tale of one guy and two girls who are kidnapped by a crazed maniac while travelling across Australia. The maniac then proceeds to chop them into little pieces. Unlike European films where it's almost compulsory to have a happy ending, this charming chap gets away with it to kill another day. Pete and I spent a very unsettled night in our tiny tents clutching the pathetic little penknives that we'd bought in Milletts before coming out here. We felt very alone.
Things got even worse the next day when our guides thought we'd fallen asleep and started going on about all the people they knew in prison. One man, who is now in prison for killing two travellers, had been working for Booner a week before the killings. Booner said he'd sacked him for having a "bad attitude". You can say that again.
I'm not really one for camping but, out here, we have no choice. I have a phobia of spiders and this is not the place for that neurosis. They have pretty much every type of dangerous creepy-crawly known to man and, every night, I meet them all in my dreams.
Yesterday, Booner pointed out one of the ramshackle huts that pass for houses in one of the tiny towns that we passed through. "You can pick one of those up for about two grand, mate," he said proudly. That's about £1,000 and even that looked rather over-priced. I don't think I'll be investing in anything up here that soon.
Even the animals are being constantly slaughtered. Mostly, it's on the main highways, which are ankle deep in roadkill. On the third day of our trip, Booner parked up by the bloated carcass of a dead wallaby and hacked the tail off with his knife. "That'll make a great piece of meat on the barbie tonight," he announced proudly.
We thought he was joking. He wasn't. That night a desiccated wallaby tail was burning brightly on the campfire. I can confirm that it was disgusting.
If I look on the bright side, this is like some sort of boot camp for I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! If my career ever nose-dives so badly that I feel the need to go on it, then I'll be ready. That's if I get out of here alive first. Ten days to go.Reuse content