Wednesday, 30 July 2008


Before I tell you about the wonderful time we had in Litchfield I wanted to tell you the words of wisdom we learnt from Russell (our Katherine Gorge guide) in case you should ever wonder as we did. We saw a crocodile on our tour and Russell was asked how to distinguish a “freshy” from a “salty”. Without a sign of a smirk Russell replied “By its bite!” Gee thanks Russell, that really helps! He did go on to tell us that Freshwater Crocodiles don’t eat people.
Now on to Litchfield National Park which is a beautiful place to visit. After we settled in to our park we went to see the Termite Mounds which are either Cathedral or Magnetic. In the photo Ian is standing beside a Cathedral Termite mound so you can see how tall they are. They are a fascinating phenomenon. The location of the Magnetic mounds and how they are built is really interesting down to the angle of the mound. If they are not built at the right angle the warmth and coolness is not conducive to the population of termites and the nest dies --- natural selection.
Litchfield is also well known for the number and spectacular nature of the falls. We visited a number of falls over our two days and climbed to the top of Wangi Falls on the second day and I have posted a photo of them. It was not an easy walk but the view from the top was well worth it. The Park rangers have the trails well marked and graded according to difficulty and the expected time to complete the walk and our skills as mountain goats are improving!
After our walk we decided not to swim at Wangi as it looked very cold and went on to Walker Creek where we walked through a number of secluded camping spots until we found a lovely spot for lunch and a swim which we really enjoyed although I was not so enamoured with the hundreds of little fish who were very keen to make our acquaintance. Falling asleep at night is not a problem for us! The weather is very warm now and we’re really enjoying being able to swim, even if the water is cold we soon warm up.
Next stop Darwin!

Saturday, 26 July 2008


We arrived in Katherine on Thursday afternoon and booked into a park which is located a little way out of town with trees and grass – lovely. We have decided to stay three nights to enable us to have a really good look around and to recharge a little .
After we restocked the fridge (and the pantry) we planned our time here and booked in for a Katherine Gorge tour on Saturday which sounded great and certainly was the highlight of our Katherine visit.
On the first night we were talking to our ‘neighbours’ and heard all about how easily he caught prawns at home in Queensland and that he had bags of them in his freezer to enjoy as they travelled around. We had a very enjoyable evening and were overjoyed when our neighbour presented us with a bag of prawns the next morning as they were departing. How good is that! We have enjoyed two evening meals of fresh prawns which has been pretty hard to take!
On Friday we went to a couple of galleries and I was able to talk to two Indigenous women who were painting at one of them. They were lovely ladies and I was amazed at how much work goes into each piece they create. These ladies were dot painting and one complete piece we saw took two months. The piece Marilyn was working on will take her a month. Every dot she placed on the canvas was put there using no more than a two inch piece of twig dipped into paint. She told me that she paints in the colours she likes and the painting she was working on had the story of possums. It was a beautiful piece. I remarked to the gallery director that the paintings would make lovely fabric for patchwork and she told me that she is trying to get some of the ladies to paint onto fat quarters for just that purpose. I have left my details and have been promised photos of the work when available. How exciting!
After lunch we visited the much talked of springs and spent a lovely afternoon relaxing in the warm waters. It really is tough you know, then we had prawns for tea!
Today we went for our cruise down three of the Gorges with our Indigenous guide Russell who has to be a first cousin of Ernie Dingo (we asked, he isn’t). He was great and we had a wonderful time, not only enjoying the beautiful gorges but also learning so much about the local Aboriginal heritage. I have attached a couple of photos. One thing we did think was that we have heard a number of didgeridoo players but none sounded as good as Russell. We watched curiously as Russell placed his instrument into the water and rinsed it at one of our earlier stops and he told us that this enhances the sound and it certainly did for us.
After our cruise we went back to the springs for the rest of the afternoon and now we’re about to have prawns for tea again!
Tomorrow its Litchfield National Park at Bachelor where its unlikely we will not have telephone for a couple of days so the blogs will have to wait, but I’m writing them up regularly or I forget what we have seen.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Stopping at Newcastle Waters for the night -- Wednesday

After we left Taylor Creek Rest Area we stopped briefly at the Devils Marbles which extend for quite a way just off the highway. We then drove on to Tennant Creek where we thought we may have had breakfast or a cup of coffee or bought some milk. Didn’t, but bought fuel and travelled on until we came to Three Ways where we had a quick break before going on.
So here we are at another roadside stop for the night. This one is extremely popular (full!) with 15 vehicles staying the night.
Today’s photo is of our stop and also a sign we saw on the road to Palm Valley which I am sure our friend Ray will enjoy ---- see they even know your habits here Stocky!
As you can tell we haven’t had coverage to post for a few stops so there are a few blogs at once, hope its not too confusing!

Telegraph Station to Taylor Creek Rest Area - Tuesday

We left Alice Springs early and stopped at the Telegraph Station just north of Alice and spent a very interesting couple of hours looking at the buildings and reading of the enormous challenges which were met to bring early communication to the outback. The concept of an underground cable from Darwin to Europe in the 1800’s seems incredible still.
We were able to try our hand at morse code and I think it would have severely impeded gossiping for hours. However a story is told of how some of the men who were operating the telegraph station got the results of the horse racing, placed bets with the bookies and then at a suitable time later passed on the results and collected their winnings. Very entrepreneurial!
When it was no longer used as a Telegraph Station the buildings were converted to a Children’s Home for “half castes” and it is terrible to read of the way in which children were taken from their mothers arms. The articles written at the time espoused the theories that this would enable the children to act white and hopefully leave their heritage behind and become useful members of society. The stories of the children are very sad.
After the Telegraph station we journeyed on to Aileron and photographed the Giant Anmatje Man who stands proudly above the Aileron Roadhouse together with a couple of fetching goannas. Photo of these are included for the benefit of Kate and Waz following instructions about “big” things. Then to Ti-Tree and Barrow Creek stopping at Taylor Creek Rest Area where we were joined by six other vehicles for the night. It was a very cold and windy night and we were awake and ready to go on by 8am.

Last Day at Alice

For our last day at Alice Springs we decided to do the things we tried but abandoned on Saturday due to the windy conditions.
On our way out of town we stopped at John Flynn’s Grave and read the story of the replacement of his original headstone with another which was more appropriate to the Indigenous people of the area which was very interesting.
Then it was back to Simpson’s Gap where we started on Saturday and despite encouraging thoughts from us and the ranger no wildlife would greet us again (sensibly inside making a pot of tea I should imagine!).
Then we travelled to Hermannsburg which was the birthplace of Albert Namatijira and was a German mission in the late 1800’s and again early 1900’s. An incredibly desolate place and I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been especially before they had a reliable source of water. From there we went to Palm Valley which was the inspiration for many of Namatijira’s paintings and truly a breathtaking place. The first part of the drive was a pleasant one thru the river bed, rocky but really fine. We had lunch at the picnic point looking at the most spectacular scenery you will find anywhere before we began the treck to Palm Valley.
A vehicle in front of us became bogged in the sand and was rescued by another 4wd vehicle and decided not to go on, very wise move I think. However we did go on and although I have tried to describe, in a matter of fact manner to both Kate and Peter, details of the next part of the expedition, I have been called a wimp so I won’t bother here. Those who really want to know how much I enjoyed it can ask me when we return. Don’t ask Ian however as he will give a very different account. Suffice to say it was interesting although the view from Palm Valley would have fascinated a scientist or botanist I was very keen to complete the 2k walk (very keen, indeed did so in record time!) and get the hell out!
I am now speaking to Ian again and we have resumed our travels with some understandings in place.
We returned to the caravan park and I was able to share my appreciation of Palm Valley with the couple next to us, who decided to only go as far as the delightful picnic spot.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Alice Springs - part 1

It was only a short drive from Stuarts Well to Alice Springs and we were just about the first to check in at the Big 4 MacDonnell Range Park at 9.30am! The park here has grass on the sites which is really exciting for us as we have been camped on sand or dirt or stones just about the whole way. Its amazing the difference grass beneath your feet makes!
Friday night the park advertised a slide presentation. We sat out under the stars and watched and listened to a very passionate and committed ranger. It was a great night and would stand us in good stead for the rest of our visit.
On Saturday we thought we would go to Simpsons Gap, Palm Valley and Hermannsburg which are reasonable distances from here. We have been in the habit of not turning on the TV or radio and really enjoying it and discovering that it doesn’t matter if we don’t hear the news. However, it really is a good idea to listen to the weather and not rely on sticking your head out the caravan to decide on what to wear or what to do. Bad move on this day. We experienced a once a year dust storm and made it as far as Simpson’s Gap where we were really nearly blown off our feet. When we finally conceded defeat we felt (and probably) looked as though we had been sand blasted. Back to the park to reconsider our options, and to redo the whites washing which I had carefully soaked and scrubbed by hand to remove some of the red sand of Uluru.
Off to some inside touring we visited the Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame which is located at the old Gaol so we have two experiences for one. It was a great afternoon learning about the role of women here and throughout Australia. We felt somewhat like a pair of wimps for not going on with our morning plans after we saw what the pioneer women endured.
Sunday was a better day although cooler and began very well for Ian as breakfast was provided by the park in the form of pancakes and tea. It was the best mobile pancake machine I have ever seen and turned out 25 magnificent pancakes at a time. Everyone was well satisfied, some even returned for seconds, no guessing who!
Being well satisfied we set out for the Transport Heritage Centre which encompasses the National Transport Hall of Fame, Old Ghan Museum and Tea Room and Kenworth Dealer Hall of Fame. It was a very busy morning and again we learnt. This time it was the role of the trucking industry in bringing goods and services to the outback and opening up the outback for settlement. It’s the sort of thing you don’t think about or read about and the museum was a great place to visit. We also saw some interesting vehicles one of which is on today.
After a cup of tea in the tea rooms we moved on to the Arts precinct and saw the 2008 Beannie Exhibition which was really great. Some of the beanies were extraordinary. At the same venue we saw some beautiful more traditional works by Albert Namatjira and also some indigenous painting and also a very informative video.
Onward and upward we then went to the Desert Park where we watched a show on Australian birds of prey which was very interesting with birds swooping overhead followed by a couple of hours on a self guided tour of the park, finishing with a movie in the cinema on the beginnings of Australia.
It was a great day and I’m sure we will have another exciting one tomorrow.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Stuarts Well

As promised we travelled to Stuarts Well for Thursday night and ……. Yes Dinky was there and performing at his stunning best.
However first of all, believe it or not there were other treats in store before we spent a very entertaining evening with Dinky.
When we arrived we quickly settled into the free camping area provided at the Roadhouse which was entirely on sand and very dusty but quite adequate considering we expected to be exploring during the day and in the roadhouse for dinner and the ’show’ in the evening.
After taking the van off we set out for a 4 wheel drive experience which you can imagine one half of the travelling party really enjoyed! We jolted our way out to Rainbow Valley which can only be described as extraordinary and somewhat reminiscent of a Mad Max set in its dry and desolate yet very beautiful landscape. Well worth the visit and we can only imagine how beautiful in another way it would be when there was water in the now cracked and dry clay pan.
We returned to the Roadhouse and enjoyed a cleansing ale and lemon squash or two and ordered dinner which was a magnificent piece of braised scotch fillet steak that had been cooking all afternoon in a red wine and mushroom sauce. We could smell it from our van and just had to have it with all the vegies. Lucky we’re exercising a lot!
Then it was on with the Dinky show! Hard to describe really except Dinky’s playing of the piano and ‘singing’ are extraordinary and not to be missed if you are in the area. We were also educated in the early days of tourism here. Jim Cotterill who is Dinky’s Alpha Male is the son of Jack who opened up Kings Canyon and has wonderful tales to tell of the early years and what had to be done to enable tourists to do what we are privileged to be doing on this trip.
After Jim had spoken for a little while Dinky again took the floor or the piano and gave another stirring rendition or whatever it is he is singing and the show was over. What a night and certainly a highlight for us.
Friday is a short drive to Alice Springs where we intend to spend four nights and we are sure they will be busy ones.

Kings Canyon

After we left Uluru we travelled to Kings Canyon which was a comfortable late lunch arrival at the park which we had booked into. As we drove in three brumbies ran out a little way ahead of us across the road which was certainly a new experience for us!
Kings Canyon is located in Watarrka National Park and again we are so pleased we came. After a while you run out of superlatives – it is all spectacular and so different.
We had the choice of three walks here and decided on the two easier ones as the Kings Canyon Rim Walk is strictly for the mountain goats, which we clearly are not!
We undertook the Kings Creek Walk on our first afternoon which was a distance of 2kms and ended at a viewing platform where we were able to enjoy stunning views of the sheer Canyon walls and watch the ‘mountain goats’ walking along the rim high above our heads. They were strictly in the ‘nose bleed’ section of the cinema! The walk was along a beautiful man made path which you can see in one of our photos. Everything is in harmony with the surroundings and you don’t feel as though you have intruded on the natural beauty too much. The walk is timed to take approximately 1 hour but we stopped to look at so much along the way an afternoon passed very quickly. You can see how the colours of the rocks change and the patterns they create in the Canyon walls. The foliage changes as you move into areas which would normally have some water and how resourceful plants and trees are in surviving and thriving in this harsh environment.
When we returned to the park we walked up to the Mobil Service Station (a servo – Dawn!) where ‘odour free’ Unleaded is $2.10 a litre, for milk ($1.95 for 600 ml) and passed several dingoes wandering through the camp. The warnings about dingoes here are not exaggerated. They appear quite confident and not at all nervous as they wander through the individual campsites. At the van next to ours they came right up to the family as they were cooking their dinner. This is one occasion I am very thankful for our own bathroom – no traipsing across to the amenities in the middle of the night for this little black duck! At the moment they have pups in tow so they are fairly busy and protective.
Today we took the Kathleen Springs Walk which is 2.6kms but takes longer than expected when you stop, look and listen. This area was used extensively in the pioneer cattle industry to utilise the beautiful springs. Structures from the cattle yards still remain and certainly illustrate the resourcefulness of the pioneers, although now it is all National Park. This is the first time we have been on a walk and ended sitting beside water so it was quite different. We would love to come back here when there has been rain as we’re sure it would be even more spectacular.
The birds are quite beautiful and last night at sunset we saw black cockatoos with their beautiful red tails and finches and so much more that we couldn’t identify.
We’re off again in the morning to Stuarts Well Roadhouse, home of Dinky the Singing Dingo so we hope he is at home! Last week we understand he was away one night --- perhaps performing elsewhere!

Monday, 14 July 2008

To Uluru

After Coober Pedy we continued along the Stuart Highway and along and along --- its not the most scenic of routes but the only way for us to get to Uluru bearing in mind our “not off road” van. We crossed over the border into the Northern Territory and stayed the night at Kulgera at the roadhouse which is a cheap and cheerful stop for many of us going to Uluru. We met up with a number of nomads and enjoyed dinner at the roadhouse. Great steak sangas!

We set out bright and early on Sunday morning for Uluru and arrived just in time for lunch which was good timing and probably lucky too as of course we didn’t have a booking and sites were becoming scarce. There were at least six people waiting for van and camping sites so we were relieved to have a powered site for two nights although an unpowered would have been fine too. Being turned away was not exactly what we were looking for however.

After lunch we set out to explore Kata Tjuta (formerly known as The Olgas) and had a wonderful walk along the Walpa Gorge which is truly magnificent. There are no words to describe this part of Australia and we were truly awestruck by it all. The walk was only 2.6km but it took over an hour because we just had to keep stopping and looking up at the Gorge and the colours are just so vibrant and ever changing.

We came back for the sunset and it too was amazing. I think I have learnt more about colours here than in any workshop. I feel a quilt coming on.

Today we set off to Uluru and the cultural centre which is a great facility and a great place to learn of the true significance of this area. We walked the Mala walk and again found ourselves taking a long time to enjoy all that it offered along the way including some cave paintings. We didn’t climb Uluru. Firstly it was closed due to the windy conditions but probably more importantly we didn’t feel it necessary and it is discouraged by the traditional landowners so we respect their spirituality and just marvel at Uluru from the ground.

In the afternoon we again returned to the cultural centre before the sunset and spent another hour looking and listening.

We’re planning to view a sunrise tomorrow, this time at Uluru before we move on to Kings Canyon where we have booked (incredible I know!) for two nights.

Kate and Warwick have instructed us to photograph and blog BIG things so we figure these two photos are better than big prawns, gumboots, pineapples or any other BIG thing!

Friday, 11 July 2008

Coober Pedy

We arrived in Coober Pedy on Thursday after a very long drive from Port Augusta where we stayed for one night after leaving Broken Hill. Along the way to Port Augusta we happened on the clean up from a very nasty accident at Olary where a road train carrying 800 sheep of which only 300 survived had overturned when the driver tried to avoid a kangaroo. They were on their way to agistment and were much prized by their owner who had been breeding this particular variety for 5 years. He now has to start again and seemed heartbroken but philosophical as most farmers are, when we heard him interviewed on the ABC Country Hour.
We’re never too sure of where we will end up and peruse all the stops along the way looking for somewhere suitable to stop when we’ve had enough. This time the roadside stops held no appeal at all as the country is very open and barren. When we finally pulled into Coober Pedy we had covered 530k which is more than we usually prefer. Caravan park space was a little difficult again but we found a new park which is great.
Today we thought we would have a look around and probably not see too much as there didn’t appear to be much to see and we have been underground to a mine at Emerald last year. However Coober Pedy is deceptive as so much is located underground including the houses. We went on a tour of the Old Timers Mine which dated back to 1916. The Old Time Miners had filled in the shafts, hiding the mine below and it wasn’t until 1968 that the hidden mine was accidentally discovered when an underground home extension broke through, revealing much precious opal which we were able to see today. When you need more space in your home you set your husband to tunnel out another room and that is what happened here. We were able to see the home which led to the uncovering of the mine and it really is quite comfortable and provides much needed relief from the hot weather they experience here in the summer. When we read about how the early miners struggled here to extract the opal and how the women managed both as miners and homemakers you can only appreciate how tough these early pioneers were and in fact continue to be as it is no easy life here. So our day turned out to be far more interesting than we first thought.
Tomorrow we’re off to Kulgera or thereabouts, just in the Northern Territory getting us every closer to Uluru.
Petrol here $1.779 per litre - not too bad considering the location.
Weather Report – still cold but not quite the icy cold on Broken Hill.
Hope you enjoy the photos of the underground house at the Old Timers Mine at Coober Pedy.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Brrrroken Hill

We drove through to Broken Hill after our evening stop over at the Florida Rest Area. Finding a caravan park or stop was challenging in Broken Hill and we ended up in a caravan park at the last available site after being turned away at the first park.
We were unsure of how long to stay but we extended to three nights and will leave tomorrow after a couple of busy days looking around.
On the first morning we decided to take the two hour guided tour of Broken Hill city and it was a great decision. Our tour guide, Ruth is 74 and 10 months and has lived in Broken Hill all her life and is a gem. We walked around the city area and Ruth treated us to wonderful local news and history with her background of being a miner’s wife, a nurse and now a widow who is remarrying a nurse in November because the roses are beautiful around the rotunda! Her energy was amazing and we finished our tour feeling well satisfied. The tour was by donation only and the donations are used to fund local charities. A great service, particularly considering it was soooooo cold we thought we were going to freeze throughout the two hours despite our coats. As a matter of fact when we walked past the local dry cleaners and enjoyed the rush of warm, heavy, chemical air we begged Ruth to tell us something about the building so we could linger longer!
The buildings are magnificent, many built with the ‘rubbish’ stone from the mine and the Trades Hall is particularly interesting with all the memorabilia from the Unions which relate to the area.
After thawing out at a lovely restaurant high on a mullock heap overlooking the town we went to the Pro Hart Gallery which can only be described as a great education. His four Rolls Royce cars are parked at the gallery including one which he had painted with a fantastic landscape. Within the gallery is a mixture of all the Pro Hart styles which are many and varied and also his pipe organ and a couple of old masters as well. It was a great visit and much appreciated by us both even with our very poor knowledge of art.
This morning we went for a drive out to Kinchega National Park and visited the Historic Woolshed, which clearly indicates that we have it too easy now!
For the afternoon we went to the Broken Hill Sculptures which entailed a long walk up hill in the freezing wind and sometimes drizzle to see the 12 carvings which were created by 12 sculptors from many parts of the world. Truly an awesome undertaking considering the stone proved to be too hard to carve with cold chisels and required tungsten carbide tools donated by local former miners. They are amazing and well worth the walk.
On to Peterborough or somewhere that way!
Yes I am as cold as I look in the photo!!!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Picnic Races and Good Company ....

Whilst watching TV in Gilgandra we saw an advertisement for the Duck Creek Picnic Races in Nyngan and thought they looked like fun. This is the second year of the races and they appear to have attracted nearly everyone from the area and they dressed up a treat as you will see in the photos! The blue suit on the young man was indeed impressive and he certainly was a standout amongst the men!
The women were very well represented in the fashion stakes and many were clearly representative of the gentry of the area and had gone to a lot of trouble with their outfits. We, however could only manage our best jeans.
On the betting front we were also stunningly unsuccessful. Ian chose the first two losers and I endeavoured to save the bacon by watching the jockeys (there were only 8 for the day, resulting in scratchings of horses from some races but never mind) come out and choosing the best looking silks and checking out the horse of course. When I chose the bright pink silks on the grey horse I thought I was on a winner and despatched Ian quick smart to the betting ring to stake the inheritance. If the race had only been 20 metres …… we’d have been rich, as my horse went out like a shot straight into the lead …… and finished last.
Nevertheless it was a great day and we thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality at the meeting which also included lovely snacks made by the catering committee and we were even offered a space at the pony club next door if we wanted to stay over – real country hospitality at its best.
We drove on and stayed the night at a great roadside free camp and joined two other couples who had a blazing fire and lots of good stories – another great night.
On to Broken Hill on Sunday. Hope you enjoy the signs I snapped at the Duck Creek Picnic Races and my pinup man in the blue suit! What a stunner!

Friday, 4 July 2008

Onward from Gosford ......

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with Pete and Dawn as always and left on Wednesday morning to travel on towards Armidale. For the first time we can remember we had a visit to Gosford without rain. For those who followed our journey last year you will recall the dreadful weather we had in June last year so we were very relieved not to endure storms this time. We parked our van out in the street in front of Pete and Dawns unit which was much more convenient and enjoyed staying in their unit instead of the van. We will have plenty of time in the van over the next three or so months!
Pete suggested that we travel along the highway and turn off just after Raymond Terrace travelling along Bucketts Way and Thunderbolts Way through Stroud, Strouds Road, Craven, Straford and Gloucester. It was a beautiful drive and the winding and somewhat hilly road made for interesting travel.
We ended the day at a magnificent site called Bretti Reserve which is situated beside the Manning River and truly a great find. We were surrounded by very friendly cattle and a number of campers. We went for a lovely walk beside the River which was flowing quite rapidly. The Reserve is obviously a very busy place during the summer and is equipped with toilets and rubbish bins and well maintained. You can stay for up to a month free of charge and we’re sure it would be a great place to stay again. We met a couple of girls from Sydney who have given up their permanent residence to travel and just ‘live in the moment’! They were great fun and have a huge dog for company who we’re sure would discourage any unwanted attention. The night was a cold one but with our hotties, and plenty of blankets we are much better prepared this year.
From there we went on to Armidale and booked into a caravan park. It seems crazy that we didn’t stay in one of the cabins there on the many visits we made to Armidale when Kate and Pete were students at UNE as the park is a very comfortable one. We met up with Jason Wall and Edwina Ridgeway at Duval College and enjoyed coffee and a quick catch up.
In the evening we had a great dinner at PJ’s, a Thai restaurant, with Edwina and talked for hours over a beautiful meal. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to spend time with Edwina without having to worry about college commitments! We seemed to pick up from our last visit when Pete moved back after finishing his degree without a moment’s hesitation.On from Armidale on Friday morning ending up at a ‘cheap and cheerful park’ in Gilgandra for the night as we wend our way towards Broken Hill.