Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August 1st

After 3 full days at home we are steadily working through the big unpack and clean-up.
My thoughts continue to stray to Eco Dyeing. I have ironed my fabrics and sorted the leaves and pods I have for some time for more dyeing and some stitching.

Today, John has overlaid our most recent route on the map of our routes from the last 20 years. 2012 route is drawn in red.

It has been fun for me to write this blog about Safari 2012. It is a great record to have stored.

Where will we venture in 2013?...ideas are being thrown into the camp oven for cooking and planning.

Safari 2012-Red Route

Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 29th

It was good to wake up in the Mallee bush.... 4 deg with a heavy dew.
The gravel road was excellent as we returned to the Murray Valley Highway. The highlight was a flock of Regent Parrots. They are a large bird.... 39 cm in length, mostly bright yellow in colour with dark green and red wings.. certainly a spectacle to see in flight.

Cohuna has a new Information Centre on the highway and in the middle of the small town. It has been operating for 6 months only....well worth a visit if you are travelling that way.

Our plan was to have lunch in Echuca....this was not to be. Echuca was packed with people and vehicles.
Unbeknown to us the Winter Blues Festival was on this weekend. We had to settle for cold pork and chutney  in 'Earthy'.

In latter years there are noticeably more Wood Wardie trees growing along this road, many of which are in full bloom at present..those huge yellow flowers are very eye catching.

We reached Milawa soon after 4.00pm. Good to be home safely after
 9022 km. of safe driving. It is the coldest spot we have been in for the last 7 weeks!

Unloading at 'Kyamba' this space. John intends registering the track we took across 5 states of Australia. I will publish the map when it is available.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

July 28th

The sky dawned blue but very quickly clouded over into a grey day, a day of showers. However it is fine enough this evening for us to cook a small roast of pork in the camp oven. A meal to celebrate a lovely holiday with safe travelling.

We travelled south through Danggali to Chowilla Regional Reserve, then into NSW and toward Wentworth.

A view of the Great Annabranch of the Darling River.

Our stop for lunch gave us a wonderful view over the Great Annabranch of the Darling River. There were birds on the water and flying through the wonderful old River Red Gum trees. The Annabranch leaves the Darling River at Menindee and flows east of the Darling, through lakes until it joins the Darling River again just before it enters the Murray River. Water in the lakes can be stored for irrigation or for users down stream.

After crossing the Murray River at Euston we had planned to camp at a favourite spot on the Murray River near Boundary Bend, but changed our mind when we found that the Murray River is running very high at present. We diverted our track south and have found a pleasant place among the Mallee trees. It could easily rain again this evening.

July 27th

We have arrived at Danggali Conservation Park just before 3.00 pm in a heavy shower of rain.
'Earthy' has made so much difference to our attitude to camping in poor weather.

It has been a peaceful and interesting day. To begin with we walked for 45 minutes along a walking track in Redbanks Conservation Park. The eroded cliffs along Baldina Creek were quite spectacular. 
The gravel road across from Burra to Danggali was in excellent condition. The country varied greatly from a
saltbush plain to heavy bush containing a large variety of trees and bushes.. Black Oaks (Casuarinas), Gidgee (acacia), Cassias, and four types of Mallee Eucalypts to mention a few.
Mallee Ringneck parrots flitted across the road in front of us as well we saw two large Wedged Tailed Eagles enjoying the breeze. As we were looking for a camping spot there were a number of emus including Father Emu with five striped chicks. Travelling through Station Properties we have seen sheep, goats and kangaroos.

Red cliffs along Baldina Creek
Another long walk completed our day. This bush is very pretty to walk through. I found a wattle with magnificently curled seed pods. The wattle is called ''Wait-a-while' wattle...I wonder why. It is very prickly and must have had masses of blooms. I wonder whether the curly brown pods will print on wool or silk fabric!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

July 26th

Flowers and buds on Wood Wardie
Nuts on Eucalypt Wood Wardie
We have travelled 350 km today.. definitely on the home run of bitumen!

First hour or two was taken getting to Port Augusta. A busy road for traffic going to Perth and anything in between. Also the rail line and water pipe line from our generous Murray River...maybe going to Ceduna?

The Wadlata Information Centre in Port Augusta provided us with our first cup of coffee for 4 weeks..not many coffee shops in the desert!

Through the Southern Flinders Ranges on Horrocks Pass.. a very pretty drive with red gums close to the road. In fact I have admired the trees all day. Perhaps the sprinkling of rain they have received has brightened them.

Willmington was our stop over for a Take Away lunch. We both enjoyed a 'Kangaroo Yuri' with Chilli sauce. Wood Wardie trees in  bloom gave a wonderful background to the flock of Scarlet Breasted Parrots. They were delightful to see so closely, eating from the yellow blooms or fresh nuts.

What a spectacle the man made wind turbines provided between Jamestown and Burra...a rough count and then an estimation of at least 200 huge wind turbines all feeding into the South Australian grid which receives 20% of its power from the wind.

A little trivia...Jamestown is the Birthplace of R.M. Williams.

Tonight we are camped in the tiny Redbanks Conservation Park which is north east of Burra. It is a very pretty park with White Mallee trees dominating the bush. We hope to explore some of the walking tracks in the morning..that is if these cold showers don't persist. It feels like snow here tonight.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 25th.

The weather has deteriorated over night. We have had showers and a strong breeze to travel through today.
The mallee country interspersed with green cropping pastures has added colour to our day. Two distinctive bushes in bloom..a wonderful Wattle as well as a pink flowering bush which I think could be a Boronia.

Our route has lead us south-east to Streaky Bay then north-east to the Eyre Highway.We are settled into a  camp spot in the Gilles Conservation Park just off the Eyre Highway. The mallee scrub is all around us.

The weather has turned quite freezing this evening. I think it is carrying snowy weather to NE Victoria for the weekend.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 24th

We have had a great day starting with a magnificent sunrise. A few surfers were braving the chill wind to ride the waves. The camp ground is kept in immaculate condition which was a welcome sight after seeing so much rubbish left through the bush. We have explored the area around Ceduna which is a really neat  town with quite a bit of modern housing development. The Ceduna Port loads salt, grain, mineral sands and gypsum. Again we visited the Aboriginal Art Gallery where  artists were at work including talented young artist Beaver Lennon who we spoke to last year. He has had an exhibition in Adelaide this year and sold several large works.

Food Land was a focus for us today as I had not shopped for over 4 weeks. This was at Alice vegies were bit scarce in the refrigerator. We also called at the Fish Processors and bought some King George Whiting for dinner and some prawns for entree..very nice change.

Tonight we are camped south of Ceduna in the Laura Bay Conservation Reserve. We are in a sheltered spot amongst the Tea Tree...the mosquitoes like it here as well! The warm day has been very pleasant...a pity to be heading east and south!

Sunrise over Cactus Beach

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23rd

What an interesting morning we had. It started early with a guy driving a truck calling into see us as we were packing our camp. He was Robin, the manager of the Maralinga complex, checking to see whether we had a  permit to allow us into the Oak Valley/Maralinga area. Yes, all was in order so we had quite a long chat to him about the area. It is great to learn from local people.

The road south was excellent..gravel then bitumen. There is a Mineral Sands mine operating in the hence the very good road.

We crossed the Trans Continental Railway line at Ooldea. This is where the famous Mrs Daisy Bates lived. Between the rail lines there is a memorial to her which reads 'Daisy Bates 1859-1951. Devoted her life the welfare of Australian Aborigines'. Evidently she always wore a long dress with long sleeves and a high collar. An amazing lady to be living so far away from civilization.

The Nullarbor salt bush plains provided very little interest after the Mallee country. The plains are very dry at present. The two dingoes we saw were extremely thin and appeared to be starved from lack of available food.

We continued south and reached the Eyre Highway at Colona. I felt sad to leave the inland desert country.

Internet contact was soon available so we stopped about fifteen km west of Penong to post several blogs.

Tonight we are camped at Point Sinclair with the roar of the waves in our ears. We still have internet contact.

Sunset over Cactus Beach, Point Sinclair

July 22nd

The road east to Oak Valley and South Australia has been an excellent gravel road all day. We have met about eight cars along the way..Sunday driving perhaps!

This morning while I was in charge of driving we passed 2 small groups of three camels on the road. They cantered/galloped ahead of us for awhile and eventually they allowed us to pass..feeeww! A good deal of frothing at the mouth and panic was going on..poor stupid animals.

The country varied between Mallee and low blue/grey salt bush. Very few flowers..eucalypts and the odd cassia, wattle, hop bush and emu bush. I found another type of Cassia which is hard to identify because my books both have Desert Cassia in them but they have differing Botanical names. However I collected a few seed pods to try in the dye pot.

We pass tanks sheds very regularly and filled up with water again.

 We are now well passed Oak Valley Aboriginal Settlement. It is actually 1 kilometre off this raod so we did not go in. It is named as a 'closed community'. We do have a permit to travel this road and through the area but felt it was manners not to go into the Community Centre.

Tomorrow we will pass through the Maralinga area.

Morning camp site of blue/grey salt bush
Tonight's camp amongst the Mallee scrub

July 21st

We continued through low sand dunes and undulating country until we reached Tjuntjuntjara
 where adults and kids were gathering for a day out at the Ilkurlka Rockhole.

We travelled through the Carlisle Lakes which are a very old salt lake system. The red/purple samphire growth was brilliant. It is a very pretty plant that grows in salty sand.

Forty Seven kilometres east of Tjuntjuntara we came upon another tank shed.
This one had two small tanks but only one was connected to the shed roof. John was able to fill our containers with water.

We were fortunate to see a small flock of parrots which we think were Scarlet Chested Parrots.
It is difficult to identify birds when they fly by so swiftly. We did see a Wedged Tailed Eagle 
fly up from the ground carrying a live rabbit...  for his dinner no doubt.

We lunched along the road near where we camped in 2001. This brought back some memories!
 I was on cooking duty on the night. I had our camp oven full of steak and vegetables for ten hungry travellers. Somehow the camp oven balance mechanism had a malfunction and a third of the uncooked stew was suddenly in the sand...Everything went very quiet while the goodies were rescued and washed. We all eventually enjoyed our meal with dumplings on top...not one complaint!

We are now camped near the South Australian/ Western Australian border. The road had been good this far
but the land has been barren with large sections of the country having been burnt.
While eating our dinner this evening we had two lots of visitors. Firstly we heard the rumbles of a camel
showing his discontent and then a dingo walked within three metres of our campfire. There is always something of interest.

John filling our container at a tank shed

July 20th

 A day of travelling sand dunes and currugations. Lovely country with various bushes and trees but hardly

 any of them in flower. John has now had the experience of sitting in the passenger seat while the driver

is learning to negotiate sand dunes. I remember being very scared the first trip up the Canning Stock Route

with 1000 dunes to go over.  'Earthy' seems to love to fly over sand dunes so that makes driving easier!

We think that Eucalpyptus Youngiana/Ooldea Mallee maybe in this area as well as Kings Mill Mallee. They are very similar but we have understood that Youngiana has bigger buds and hence bigger nuts. Both have huge flowers.

We think we have identified two new acacia trees today. The Horse Mulga/Acacia Ramulosa which has soft grey  foliage and the Christmas Tree Mulga/ Acacia Aneura Conifera. This tree also has soft grey foliage but 
is cone shaped as a Christmas Tree. 

 After not seeing a vehicle for over 70 hours we arrived Ilkurlka Roadhouse, which is in Spinifex Country on the Anne Beadell Highway, provided us with water,fuel and Interent contact. It was good to be able to post 10 blogs. The roadhouse has been funded by the Tjuntjuntjara Community and has been open since July 2003. Ilkurlka is named after a major desert rockhole...Ilkurlka Rockhole

We are headed off along the road to Tjuntjuntjara, called 'Juntjunt' for convenience, and camped at the 2nd tank shed along this road. Again we found both tanks without water.

The buds of Eucalyptus Youngiana

Friday, July 20, 2012

July 19th

The Great Victoria Desert has not disappointed us. Today's country has been varied again with densely
 grown areas and open woodland areas, breakaways and sand dune country...even a small forest of Marble Gums and their juveniles which are extremely pretty little trees with round glaucous leaves. Kings Mill Mallee eucalypts have dominated some areas. I do love the large blooms on these trees. Desert Heath is in  bloom but unfortunately the Grevillia trees and  Hakea Francisiana are not. We saw these last year on the Connie Sue Highway but our tour was a few weeks later in August.

Camel tracks again, one silly animal trotted in front of us for 15 minutes covering 5.5 km at a steady pace. Late in the day two Bustard birds crossed our track.. they appear to be very 'hauty' birds with their heads held high.

We followed the edge of some very old lakes. These are grown over now with grass and trees..maybe 2000 years ago they may have had water in them.

We were able to gather water from the first of three tank sheds we came upon. These are sheds constructed over tanks with the plan to collect water from the shed roof and drain it into the tank for people to use. The areas have become littered with rubbish and some taps have been damaged..what a shame!

About 100 km west of here there is a range of mountains called 'Sydney Yeo Range'..surely it has been named after one of Anneshka's ancestors. Our John Yeo was named after the same family link.

Eco dyed silk hanging in a Bullock Bush
I have posted this series of Blogs from Ilkurka Roadhouse which has Broadband connection available. It is on the Anne Beadell Highway.

July 18th

We arose dreading the difficulty in changing such a large tyre for the first time. It had to happen I guess.
It took some time but John was successful in changing the tyre. It must be a tiny hole as the air is 
leaking very slowly. As this was going on a large front of clouds was coming in from the west and gradually
 covering the sky. The day has been both cool and warm, but no sign of rain as yet.

The drive has been very pretty with changing trees and bushes. Marble gums and Kings Mill Mallee have
 been part of the scenery today.Also we have seen Lincoln Ringnack Parrots again...several small flocks.
They are a brilliant turquoise green with a black head and a pale ring around the neck..quite spectacular.

There have been several places marked on the map but we have seen n trace. Luckily we found the Wafala Rockhole after driving along a side track for a few hundred metres. The hole was dry so it must be hard for birds to find a little drink.. however they would not live in the area if water was not available.

Tonight we are camped on a sand dune surrounded by a crescent of low rocky cliffs with some caves. We walked along a track to a water hole, but again no obvious water. There are many finches about though.

The Gibson Desert is merging into The Great Vistoria Desert as we travel south.

I am steaming the last of my silk this evening with some seed pods from the Umbrella Bush/Acacia Ligulata which is growing nearby. All over my Eco Dyeing has been disappointing..goodness knows what I will make of it after it is pressed!

Cream flowers of the Kings Mill Mallee Eucalypt

July 17th

A cold morning at minus 1.7 deg. with a clear warm day to follow.

We had the opportunity to talk to Allan the grader driver again. He was working on the road to Wingellina.
He told us how he loved the country out here and thought of it as 'The Last Frontier'. He directed us to
Surveyors Corner. This is where three states meet..Western Australia, South Australia and Northern Territory. Evidently when the surveying was done the border lines didn't quite meet at the corner. Thecorner posts are about 50 metres apart. The area around the corner is very pretty with Mallee trees and undulating land. We decided to sit in the very warm sun and eat our sandwiches. After this we drove across to the Aboriginal settlment, Wingellina. It is quite small but has a store, Art Centre Medical Centre and School.

Southward bound we went, with a long remote road ahead of us down to the Nullarbor Plains. We travelled slowly along quite a good track which lead us through ranges and sand dunes all featuring different low growing Greviilias, Acacias, Thryptamene, Currajong and Mallee trees. We were lucky to see Major Mitchell Cockatoos and several mobs of camels again and also Button Quails this evening.

We are camped here near the Pirrilyungka Outstation. It is one of the most remote places we have ever camped. Unfortunately John has noticed the rear left tyre going down...tomorrow morning's problem!

 It is 'super' quiet tonight with a very dark sky filled with millions of starlights. This must be a true Australian place to be.

June & John at Surveyor's Corner

July 16th

The morning dawned calmly with wonderful light on the red rocks of the Gorge. We are surrounded by Red Mulga trees one of which has a large Mistletoe Maidenii growing in it. To my delight there was a tiny Mistletoe bird flitting in and out the blue-geen leaves. It is a tiny bird of about 9 cm in length coloured red, black and white.

We spent quite some time chatting to a couple of fellow campers who also love roaming the inland desert roads.

Today we have travelled on well graded roads which is a pleasant change. The range country is very attractive with Desert Oaks, Cassia, Black Gidgee and Desert Grevillia. 

We saw a very dark coloured dingo, today, with a white tip on his tail. At last we have seen several small mobs of camels. They are weird creatures. One pair were distinctly different, to each other, in colour.

A fuel stop at Warakurna took us about 30 km along the Great Central Road and back to our  southerly  turn onto the Giles Mulga Park Road. After chatting with a grader driver we have camped behind a large gravel pit. A spot he recommended. It is clean stoney sand with plenty of Mulga wood to burn. Thankfully a clear calm night. An owl flew into our campsite and sat on a dead tree quite near Earthy.

An odd pair of camels

July 15th

Last night our loitering dingo visited our camp and dug a hole in the sand where John had emptied the wash-up doubt he could smell food!

While in Kintore few days ago we spoke to a young woman who managed the Art Centre at Kintore. She regretted the artists were not working on Friday as they were preparing to go on a painting excursion to Tjukurla. Late this morning we came upon eight female artists and the two White women who manage the Kintore Art Centre. They were travelling in two Toyota Troop Carriers and intended going to Tjukurla this afternoon. Evidently the artists had burnt a small area of spinefix to make a clearing to live and work in.
They had black plastic sheets spread over the sand and black ashes and probably used this for their swags.
This morning they sat in the same area and painted stories of the spinifex, sand and a nearby rock hole. 
One of the artists told me that their mothers walked in this sand. We felt this was quite a highlight in our day.
The scenery has been varied with lovely Desert Oaks, Mallee trees, Red Mulgas, Acacias and many other varieties of flora. Tonight we are camped near to the beautiful Bungadilly Rockhole. It is very rocky and narrow. I found another type of Mistletoe and think it is the Drooping Mistletoe.

During the night John noticed an Aurora in the dark sky over the Gorge..a pink sky!

Late afternoon in the Bungadilly Gorge

July 14th

The overnight temperature dropped to zero but the morning sky was clear. Today has been a 'lay' day
from driving, so I caught up on washing. The bore is supplying clear water as long as John has the energy to use the hand pump. It is quite hard work wringing out very wet towels. It certainly makes me appreciate the washing machine and spinner at home. 

When I showered this morning I had a very mean shower. The shower rosette was found to be blocked with tiny ants looking for water!

At last I have identified the mystery wattle as Acacia Dictyophleba commonly know as Sandhill Wattle. We have seen it on the Newhaven property, along the Gary Junction Road and along this road, the Sandy Blight Road. It is in bloom at present and very attractive adding a golden yellow to the roadside flora.

It has been noted in one Of Len Beadell's books the reason for the  name of this road.. 'Sandy Blight'.
 Len and his crew made this road in 1960. During the time when Len had an eye infection called 'Sandy Blight' there you are!!

This afternoon we walked on the nearby sand dunes. I found another wattle which I have seen on another trip. It is the Umbrella wattle...a low rounded bush with tough 'nibbled' leaves.

There has not been one car go along this road today. There are surprisingly few vehicles exploring the outback roads as we are. I expect we will be the only campers here again this evening.

 We have had a lone dingo circling the camp area several times today. Maybe he is watching for food scraps.
Sandhill Wattle in bloom

July 13th

We continued along the Gary Junction Road which has few points of interest but the scenery was

interesting with dunes and everchanging flora. We stopped for a walk on one of the red sand dunes. You always find unexpected plants when you take time to look closely. Three plants of interest were the Skeleton Fan Flower, Thryptomene or Desert Heath Myrtle and many bushes of Small Yellow Button flowers. We have identified another Acacia as the Black Gidgee, but there is another Acacia which is quite wide spread which is still mystifying me. 

A visit to Kintore left me feeling disappointed at the way this community of people are living. There are a lot of dogs  and rubbish about. The houses are extremely untidy.

We enjoyed our sandwiches south of Kintore with the view of Mt Leisler dominating the horizon. The next section of our trip goes south on the Sandy Blight Road which travels through very pretty open country and then along the swales between the red dunes. Very soon we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn where there was a very old Fork Leaved Hakea in bloom. I love these intricate flowers.

Forked Leaved Hakea
 Further along this road we crossed the border from the Northern Territory into Western Australia. It was decided to continue down to the Bore Camping spot where there is water and plenty of clear area to camp. It has been a long day driving over 300km.

July 12th

 Newhaven provided a delghtful bush camping area to stay in. Unfortunately we did not see the Princess Parrot also known as Alexandra's Parrot..presumably called after Princess Alexandra. There were people at Newhaven who waited up to 9 hours in the feeding area where it had been seen. This nomadic parrot was reported in Newhaven during May of this year.It is a very pretty pale coloured parrot up to 46cm in length. Evidently its very tail is quite conspicuous.

It took us the whole morning to travel from there to Papunya. The road was variable as was the scenery. The further south we travelled the more Desert Oaks were in evidence. They are lovely erect trees, the young become more spreading as they age.

Papunya is still a very untidy settlement. We have visited several times before. We filled up with fuel and
visited both the store and the Art Centre..Papunya Tjupi artists work in this well organised centre and gallery. Tjupi means Honey Ants and many paintings are about the Honey Ant Dreaming Stories.
I purchased another small painting which is about witchety grubs.

This afternoon we have travelled west on the Gary Junction Road through pretty range country with Mt Liebig the highlight. It is a spectacular hill. The hills are lovely and quite varied in shape and colour. This morning we passed by the eastern end of Central Mt Wedge.

This evening we are camped at Lizard Bore which has one of Len Beadell's metal markers to mark the entrance track.

Leaves of Curry Wattle
The results of dyeing with Curry Wattle leaves was disappointing.

July 11th

After a very warm night we arose to a clear calm day but strong wind and clouds have developed.

Newhaven Sanctuary is a vast and important wildlife sanctuary situated in the southern Tanami Desert.

The property covers over half a million acres of diverse, arid landscapes. We have enjoyed our drive

exploring the grasslands, rugged hills and the tiny Potatoe Creek Gorge named after the Bush Potatoe plant.

Desert Bloodwoods, Holly Grevillia, Acacias, Ghost Gums and Desert Oaks are a familiar site.

Honey Grevillia is in bloom also the Forked Leafed Hakea. There are several wattles flowering but

unfortunately I am unable to identify them. From the available park notes we have recognised the

Curry wattle. The leaves of this low plant smell of Curry. I have some simmering on the cooktop

with silk smells like curry but will it leave a yellow golden mark!! Doubtful but

I must try 'just in case'.

Acacia bush formed into 'clasped hands

The property was seriously burnt a couple of years ago so there are many dead silhoettes. One paricular

tree is an acacia which forms itself into a basket shape or the shape of clasped hands after it has been

killed by fire. It is remarkable to see so many trees taking on this odd shape.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Central Mt Wedge
July 10th

During the night we were awoken  by dingoes howling, in fact one came very close and we heard growling as well. We were pleased to be safe inside 'Earthy'.

We have continued on our way to Yuendumu through very dry country which appears quite stressed because of the lack of rain.

We stopped at Brooks soak where there was a memorial to a prospector ..'Frederick Brooks' who was murdered by Aborigines in 1928. In retribution a number of Aborigines were shot. Few similar reprisals have since occurred.

We are currently at Yuendumu where internet service is good. Today's blog will be completed when next in Telstra range.

At last we have seen a lone camel and after 10 days we saw a lone Kangaroo.

Our trip south from Yuendumu to Newhaven was much smoother than expected so we have arrived a day early.

The mountains and bush were very pretty and one notable mountain was Central Mt Wedge which was named by a surveyer

who declared that it was the most central point of Australia..whether that is true we do not know. However it is an

unusually shaped rocky rise in the desert.

The camping ground at Newhaven is peaceful and clean with hot showers provided as well as a self-composting toilet.

We will explore the Sanctiuary tomorrow.

The evening is warm but I am sure the temperature will drop dramatically over night.

July 9th

A warm day to enjoy our drive westward through some pretty range country. The wide gravel road we have  travelled on was comfortable driving and the grader had been working in some sections.

 Luckily the Ti-Tree settlement on the Stuart Highway gave me an Internet connection. It took me nearly  2 hours to catch up on blogs and messages.

South from Ti-Tree we called into a mango and grape farm. It operates on bore water and the trees all looked healthy.  Mango and grape wine were both available for sale. We were able to fill up with water here..showers tonight and washing rinsed...and will soon dry in this warm atmosphere.

We were fortunate to see Major Mitchell cockatoos again also a flock of Black Falcons soaring against the blue sky. We have seen several large bird's nests today....most likely built by eagles but we saw no inhabitants.

There are many camel tracks on this road but as yet we have not seen one camel. Dingo footprints are often in evidence as well.

The Mulga trees all through the areas we have travelled are 'decked out' with Mistletoe Maidenii.

Mistletoe Maidenii

Monday, July 9, 2012

July 8th

John & June, Jack, David, Adam & Cynthia

The roads today have been much smoother to drive on after the violent corrugations of the Plenty Highway and the weather is very much warmer so we look forward to some easier camping now we are well north of Alice Springs.

We followed tracks across country to the Aboriginal settlement of Utopia. To our amazement we found it completely deserted. Some buildings appeared to be quite new, including the school. The tiny township is situated on the banks of the Sandover River which has an extremely wide, sandy bed. We enjoyed our last picnic lunch together under a beautiful Ghost Gum tree. Cynthia, David, Adam and Jack set off south  for Alice Springs, the first stop on their return home to Oxley.

John and I took the track going west toward Ti-Tree, on the Stuart Highway. We have travelled through
 Station properties and Aboriginal lands and have camped the night at the foot of a very small rocky rise 
called Mt Solitary. Camp oven lamb stew tonight!

My blog updates are being posted from Ti-Tree with good Internet connections.

July 7th

Minus 3.7 amongst the 'Red Gum Trees' at 6.30 am. Nobody wanted to get up first to light the fire! It was our coldest morning.

Our first stop this morning was at a fossicking  site for Gem stones. One would need great patience
 to have a passion for this past time. All I found were chips of Mica..some silver and some gold.

Gem Tree was a disappointing stopover where services were not being utilised very well.

After lunch we travelled east on the Plenty Highway and then north along the Binns Track to Dneiper Station in search of a meteorite site. We searched this area a few years ago and were unsuccessful. However, with better directions we drove straight to the Box Hole Crater. A huge hole in the ground which is believed to have been made when a meteorite hit earth.

Tonight we are camped out in low bush which is mainly Cassia bushes and Stinking Gidgee a type of acacia which has a very strong odour.

Cynthia and I have had a lot of fun trying to identify the various Mistletoe plants. We think we have identified 6 different varieties. The most common one is 'Mistletoe Amyema Maidenii'. Its leaves and flowers are the same soft blue/green in colour. It seems to grow most readily on Mulga (Acacia Aneura) bushes.

Box Hole Meteorite Crater

July 6th

It is 4 weeks today since we left Milawa.We have travelled through some wonderful country and over some very rocky roads--including the track into Ruby Gap/Hale River.It took 2 and 3/4 hours to travel the 46 kms back to Arltunga this morning.

Our luncheon stop at 12.30pm, was very welcome. We then walked into the Joker Gorge and the old Joker Mine Site. A spectacular narrow and  rocky creek bed for water to flow through. For the first time I have seen the honey comb made be wild bees...needless to say I kept well away as bees were visiting regularly. 

I am constantly collecting for my Eco dyeing projects. Today I have a lumpy bag of Corkwood/Hakea nuts and a collection of seed pods from both the Grey Cassia and the Oval Leaved Cassia. I have had success already with the seed pods from the Grey Cassia so they are worth collecting.

Honeycomb in Joker Gorge
The evening is cool but we have a campfire burning in the Creek bed of Gillen Creek a little way south of Gem Tree.

July 5th

I have had a great day here in this beautiful Hale River Valley. The area is known as Ruby Gap which is further up stream.The weather is still very cool but the sun is quite warm.

 I did some more eco dyeing. Some of this is successful and other results are poor but it is fun to experiment with the trees and bushes that we can identify.

This afternoon I walked a short way, up the river, across the sand and rocks and did two drawings. The colours in the cliffs are brilliant and my drawings seem unrealistic. In fact the rock colours change throughout the day. The rocks vary in colour from pale fawn to rich pink/purple and grey/black.

It is surprising to see that some sections of the sand appear red/purple in colour and when I looked closely it is made up of tiny grains of garnets.

It has been a day for bread making and washing. We will set off tomorrow morning over this very rough road and gradually head north
View from our campsite

The Hale River bed

July 4th

What a beautiful spot to spend some time! Everyone has been looking for garnets in the sand and with quite a lot of success. The boys have a collection of small examples. In places the sand looks purple/red with the tiny tiny grains of garnets that sparkle in the sun.

 There is water in the Hale River here so a perfect to stay a few nights.

The towering red cliffs and the beautiful River Red Gums along the river bed are a dominant feature of the gorge. It is very obvious that there has been a flood along the river. Debris has been left high in the trees and many small Red Gums have been pushed over. As a result of the flood there are  hundreds of tiny Red Gums which have recently germinated in the sandy creek bed.

Jack and Adam looking for Garnets
It is so restful here we have decided to stay two more nights.

July 3rd

Very late sunrise as we were tucked under a high rocky range. Today, we found that many areas of the rugged landscape have been burnt.

Our first stop was a visit to the Arltunga Historic Gold Mining Township. We have found some new trees and flowers including Red Bud Mallee Eucalypt and the intricate blooms of both the Corkwood Hakea and the Fork Leaved Hakea.

The trip into Ruby Gap was long and rough. We drove along the dry Hale River bed with very high red rocky cliffs on either side. This was quite a sight to see.

We are camped amongst sand, rocks and garnets tonight! Two little boys were lucky enough to find  garnet pebbles soon after we arrived.

The nuts of the Red Bud Mallee

July 2nd

Cold morning at Trephina Gorge where we walked for about an hour-the rocks have an outstanding glow in the sunlight. We saw Holly Grevillea, blue Isotoma,  and a low growing wattle displaying large golden blooms. There were also two examples of Eucalypts--Blue leaved mallee and Ghost Gums.

We went on to N'Dhala Gorge for a late lunch. It is an interesting walk up this Gorge with so many examples of rock art called 'pickings' as the designs are engraved into the rocks. In this area there is a wattle of particular interest, called a Sickle Wattle. It has long curved leaves like a sickle

.Late afternoon we travelled back to the Binns Track and followed it until 4.00pm where we camped beside a small dry creek bed. Many parts of this country has been burnt in the last few years making fire wood very black to collect.

A view of Trephina Creek

July 1st

Our last morning in Alice Springs! We have enjoyed our stay immensely even though we were very busy preparing  Earthy for the next step of our trip.

Jack & Adam Brock arrived by air  to Alice Springs Airport. Everyone  lunched together..then it was Goodbye time to our Renkin friends and the 6 of us set off to explore the East McDonnell Ranges. 

We called to see Emma Gorge and Jessy Gorge, both of which had great examples of
Aboriginal Art. Next stop was Corroboree Rock where we followed a track that gave us a great view of the rock. The bush is healthy with the Red Mallee trees beginning to bloom.There was also excellent examples of Mistletoe which seem difficult to identify. Evidently mistletoe varies depending on the type of tree it is growing in as well as the type of soil the tree is growing in.

The blooms of the Red Mallee Tree 

Tonight we are camping in the dry bed of Benstead Creek with a wonderful camp fact we toasted crumpets on it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

June 30th

A busy day in Alice Springs shopping for food, filling with fuel and generally having fun! We had a huge Kangaroo burger for lunch from the 'Red Dog Cafe'.

By the end of the day Earthy was packed full ready for the next 3-4 weeks..that's a large supply of food. An apple per day for 2 people is a lot of wrapping.

We all went to the 'Juicy Rump' restaurant at the Casino.

The Renkin family are perfect hosts who are ready to help at every turn.

This will be the last opportunity to post a blog for many keep watch.

Abby, Gary, Darcy & Deb Renkin

Friday, June 29, 2012

Harlequin Mistletoe
June 28th

A lovely walk over the hills to see a panoramic view of wonderful hills, rocky outcrops, cassia and even a some of fossil imprints on rocks. We found some Harlequin Mistletoe which give very clear prints on silk fabric..I am looking forward to trying it out on fine wool fabric.

We arrived in Alice Springs about midday. The beginning of the big shop has been done. We will be away from large Supermarkets for about 4 weeks!

We are parked near the home of Gary & Deb Renkin, Darcy and Abby. They are very welcoming hosts.

June 28th

An early walk to the rocky top of a nearby hill which gave us a wonderful view of the nearby areas..all rocky with wonderful colours. I was able to collect the pods and leaves of the grey cassia bushes with the hops they will transfer some colour to my silk pieces.

The morning drive through hills was amazingly beautiful with changing trees, spectacular ranges and rock formations, sand dunes and an inland atmosphere that you can really feel!

Onward north after lunch until we came to Santa Teresa Aboriginal Settlement. This is a very clean little township which is obviously well organised. We were fortunate to be able to visit the Art Centre and Church.

Range Country south of Santa Teresa 

The road out was very dusty so it took some time to find a suitable camp site and then we were thrilled to enjoy and red, red sunset in the west with a lovely pink reflection in the east.

June 27th
Our camp just north of Old Andado was delightful with Coolabah Coolabah Eucalypts all around us. As usual Cynthia and David were up very early to watch the sunrise with their cameras.

We travelled a short distance along the swale and stopped for more photography and some painting on my part.

The next stop, and most interesting for the day was the Mac Clarke Conservation Reserve for the preservation of Acacia Peuce which is a rare acacia and only seen in a few places in Australia. It is better known as a ‘Waddy Tree'. In the past Aboriginal people made waddies from this incredibly hard wood. The waddy is a fighting club. The trees are unusual in shape and it is believed they live hundreds of years. They have very large seed pods.

Also, we were interested in the burrows of the Night Rats. They are all linked by little ‘highway’ like tracks where the rats run around on at night..what fun it would be to see them!

Acacia Peuce Trees

After lunch we continued north along the Binns track and eventually stopped for the evening under some wonderful rocky hills. There are lots of Golden Orb Spiders in the light bush. Mulga Parrots are obvious as they fly in and out of the camp site.

June 26th

What a road of bones this and corrugations. It took an hour to drive the first 40 kms.

We visited Mt Dare Hotel which is a well organised establishment and would be very helpful to travellers. Corellas were in fact there were so many they looked like flowers on the trees!

The Binns track began at Mt Dare and we have followed this through some very pretty  desert country featuring healthy bushes and trees, salt and clay pans and a better road. 

We went close by Andado Station and on through some beautiful red sand dune country which is on the western edge of the Simpson Desert.

John and I had visited old Andado Station 14 years ago and had met the owner Mollie Clarke. She would have been in her late 70s at that point. She now lives in Alice Springs. Her old home is being maintained by volunteers as a heritage feature of the area. It is amazing how Mollie lived alone in such conditions.

Old Andado Homestead
Red Sand Dune of the Simpson Desert
We continued on a short while and made camp among the eucalypts in a swale between 2 dunes. A great spot! There was a flock of about 30 Major Mitchell Cockatoos sleeping in a nearby tree. They gave us an amazing display as the flew along in front of our vehicles.
I am pleased with the latest eco dyeing hanging in a nearby tree to dry.

June 25th

Our coldest morning at minus 1.3 deg.
An early stops to view a stand of Mini Richi /Red Mulga trees with their wonderful curly red bark. Next we came upon a very lean dingo near the roadway.

Dalhousie Ruins and Mound Springs  were next along the road. It was good to see maintenance men working on some of the ruins to make them more stable.

Dalhousie Springs provided a spot for lunch and a long swim in the warm pool which is fed by the Artesian waters. The park area of Dalhousie has been developed considerably since we first visited 15 years ago.

We have a small water leak in Earthy so we have camped earlier than usual. Luckily John was able to find the problem connection and hopefully there will be no more water on the floor. The roads are extremely rough, rocky and corrugated so it is to be expected that we have a few rattle and rubs on the rig.

The Victoria Wattle found in this area is at the early stages of producing its pale cream globular flower heads. There is another wattle as well with much deeper colour in the flowers and it produces a very pungent aroma. Acacias are very hard to identify.

Tonight we are camped in another creek bed and Roast chicken is sizzling in the camp oven.
River bed camp
Camp Oven dinner with some Eco dyeing