Another Roadside Distraction


Barrow Creek, Northern Territory, Australia. 

Passing Uluru on the way up north. 

Passing Uluru on the way up north. 


The oddly dressed termite mounds of the Northern Territory

3927 kilometers. That was the distance I took my $1200 battle-weary Magna over the Australian desert at the heart of summer.

There is beauty to be found in the desert for those looking hard enough. But in truth, those long hours on the open road can send even the most enthusiastic motorist into a boredom no amounts of podcasts, albums or racially-insensitive talk-back country radio can alleviate.

It begins in the northern half of South Australia, the tedium. Once you head past Port Augusta, there are no hills or greenery to speak of until you pass the Northern Territory border.

There, subtle shades of green appear on the sides of the road. Like that first glimpse of dirty roadside snow on a ski trip, these specs of vibrant green shooting through the red dirt elicit undeserved excitement to a driver having just devoured 1500 kilometers of desert tarmac.

But then, just past Barrow Creek - a place known for little more than its relationship with a grizzly backpacker murder-mystery - they begin to appear.

Like zombified hitchhikers lining the highway, their numbers exponentially grow the further north you travel.

They are dishevelled: their stature outgrowing the torn and tattered t-shirts, high-vis vests and lacy lingerie that adorn them.

But they’re not the wandering travellers that you might expect to be lining rural roads.




They are termite mounds.

Scattered everywhere from Barrow Creek to Mataranka, and even as far north as Adelaide River, these often poorly dressed dirt mounds are an inescapable and welcome feature of the monotonous northern route to Darwin.

Few people really know who’s behind them: more have emerged with the gradual growth in backpackers throughout the NT, and a handful of locals have owned up to throwing a bra or a hat on a mound or two.

Whatever their origin, the bizarrely dressed termite mounds of the Stuart Highway provide a welcome roadside distraction.


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Edward Cavanoughaustralia