Lis­ten and learn

Driv­ing in the Out­back is best with a guide, writes Tara Ravens

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - Advertising Feature -

SELF-drive trav­ellers are be­ing en­cour­aged to find room for one more item in the boot – a vir­tual guide. The North­ern Ter­ri­tory’s long stretches of lonely Out­back road have now gone dig­i­tal to try to cash in on the re­gion’s bur­geon­ing self-drive tourism mar­ket.

About 217,000 in­ter­state and 86,000 in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors get be­hind the wheel in the ter­ri­tory each year.

But for­mer tour guide Lau­relle Hal­ford said that for trav­ellers to truly un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate the Out­back, they needed to share in its many and var­ied se­crets.

Ms Hal­ford has de­signed au­dio sight­see­ing tours avail­able on CD or MP3 down­load, with the idea for the ‘‘do it your­self tour guide’’ com­ing from the many years she had spent trav­el­ling around Aus­tralia as a guide with a large coach tour­ing com­pany.

‘‘The Out­back has a wider story to tell than peo­ple re­alise,’’ she says.

‘‘ Many trav­ellers see Aus­tralia’s Out­back high­ways as lonely, straight stretches of bi­tu­men.’’

Ms Hal­ford says the au­dio cov­ered famed North­ern Ter­ri­tory drives such as the road from Alice Springs to Uluru and the Red Cen­tre Way, from Alice Springs to Uluru via the West MacDon­nell Ranges and Kings Canyon.

‘‘ Our prod­uct gives self­guided trav­ellers a new ex­pe­ri­ence by bring­ing to life the sto­ries of our early pi­o­neers, Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture, flora, fauna and nat­u­ral his­tory,’’ she says.

‘‘ The tours fea­ture sto­ries from lo­cal char­ac­ters and field ex­perts about things like life on a cat­tle sta­tion, how Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple read an­i­mal tracks and frogs that live in the desert.

‘‘ The re­sult is a rich and en­ter­tain­ing jour­ney that will even keep the kids quiet.’’

Ear­lier this year, Fed­eral Tourism Min­is­ter Martin Fer­gu­son urged Aus­tralians to get be­hind the wheel, hit an Out­back road and help save the econ­omy.

‘‘For the first time since World War II the world’s tourism or­gan­i­sa­tion has pre­dicted a de­cline in in­ter­na­tional tourism,’’ Mr Fer­gu­son says.

‘‘For far too long the tourism in­dus­try has not been fo­cused on the fact that 75 per cent of the in­dus­try in Aus­tralia is ac­tu­ally do­mes­tic tourism.’’

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