The 1100km south from Katherine down “the Track”, as the Stuart Highway is known, to Alice Springs, is something of a no-man’s-land for travellers – taken up by a sparsely populated, flat, arid plain rolling all the way to the Red Centre. The bleak landscape can provoke a slight anxiety when looking at the fuel gauge. If you really have to drive straight through, allow a good twelve hours, though it makes sense to break the journey at Mataranka to visit the hot springs and overnight further south at Tennant Creek. Avoid driving in the dark, as there’s a strong likelihood of hitting kangaroos or dozy cattle, which often wander across the road.
West of the Track, the vast Aboriginal lands of the Warlpiri and neighbouring groups occupy just about the entire Tanami Desert, while to the east are the grasslands of the Barkly Tableland, a dramatic drought-affected pastoral region extending north to the seldom-visited coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria.