Wednesday, August 16, 2017

August 16th 2017

We had the first rain for our 9 week safari. It seemed to rain nearly all night. At Deniliquin there was a good fall because we could see a lot of roadside water as we travelled eastward. Paddocks were quite flooded in places. When we arrived in Milawa the gutters either side of the road were full of water and to our amazement our garden was flooded and 2 ducks had taken up residence. They looked very contented catching their afternoon nibbles from our lawn. But weren't we lucky to have so many dry days with a clear blue sky while we were away.
Our home lawn flooded

John had arranged to go via Rutherglen to do a small task for his niece, Angela, at All Saints Winery.
This did not take long so we wandered around All Saints and enjoyed the lawns and gardens. The display of iceland poppies was most attractive. I have not seen poppies for a very long time. Angela had booked a table for us to have lunch at 'The Terrace' Restaurant. This was delightful..a special change from my regular holiday 'cut lunch'.

We are home this evening sitting in front of our home fire. It sounds wintery outside with rain still falling. The winter has been severe while we have been travelling. Frosts have caused a lot of damage which is disappointing but hopefully plants will re-shoot when Spring comes.

The van has had everything removed from it...cupboards, drawers and refrigerator have all been cleaned out. The mess inside the house has now to be tidied and the van cleaned. and the clothes washed. It will all gradually happen.

We are most thankful for a warm and dry, healthy and safe holiday. Now after a few days John has mapped out our trail of over 10,000km.
Our trail for Safari 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

August 15th 2017

Yango Homestead
There was a small amount of rain overnight but not enough to make the grey banks of the Murrumbidgee River slippery and boggy. We set off to see the historic Yango Homestead which was built during the 1870s. The beautiful decorative and quite well tended gardens, overlook the Yanga Lake. There are many buildings to walk around and through..including a wonderful old Carriage Shed and the Cook's Cottage which overlooks the Tennis Courts, and now houses a fascinating display of artefacts, photos, films and memorabilia. The wide verandas and gardens would have lent themselves to some very generous entertaining by the families who lived here.

John enjoying lunch on the banks of the Edward River
The rain was intermittent but we were able to enjoy lunch on the banks of the Edward River. However the rain increased so we eventually decided to abandon our last night of camping among the red gums and opt for a Caravan Park in Deniliquin. Now, at 8.30 pm, the rain is steady so we are pleased to be on dry, hard ground which will have no chance of bogging our rig.

The road between Moulamein and Deniliquin has long been declared a 'Stock Route'. We drove these 88 km today. It is a road with very wide verges. One side was fenced quite close to the road and the other fence was some distance away, we could not easily see it. We came upon a large mob of black cattle. They were happily feeding and then we realised that they had 'minders' or drovers..not with horses and dogs but with a couple of utes and a 4 wheel motorbike. Further on there was a caravan plus a couple of other vehicles which, I am sure, were providing cooking, eating, sleeping and general living conveniences. Modern droving is far removed from the old days of droving with many horses and dogs, plus a food wagon and a cook. Your bed would have been the ground with your head on your saddle. Because of the many dry areas in Australia, these cattle have, most likely, been taken out on the road to find food/grass to eat because they are suffering from the drought conditions on the property to which they belong.

Monday, August 14, 2017

August 14th 2017

My day began, around 7.00 am,when I looked out the window and saw the most colourful sunrise.
Sunrise at my front door
But there were dark clouds to the south. This disturbed us a little as we planned to travel to Pooncarie on the east side of the Darling River and the road is mostly gravel. Luckily for us the road was very good and the rain came only in very light sprinkles. Some sections had been sealed since we travelled this way before. The grey soil of the Darling River continued but, sadly, the water flow was weak and low in the channel. We saw the Darling and Murray Rivers in flood last November when we visited Mildura... what a sight it was with these two major rivers merging during a flood.

On going through Pooncarie we thought of our friend Doug as we saw a white Peugeot truck, high on a pole.

Gradually as we travelled south we left the red sand dunes behind us. Usually I find some plants of Cunningham's Parrot Pea in bloom while we are travelling through dunes but not this year...I was disappointed not to see them! Murray Pines began to appear as we went south and closer to the Murray River.

Coming south down the Darling we passed by the Tolarno Wool Shed where shearing was taking place. The yards were full of sheep..some shorn and some unshorn. It was an interesting comparison to the old sheds we have seen. From the distance the scene was similar, I think.

Luckily the rain did not come our way. We are told that gravel roads, following the Darling R. will be closed after as little as 4mls of rain. The bitumen was welcome and made our trip much easier as we planned to travel nearly 400 km today.
Murrumbidgee River

Later this afternoon after settling our camp into Yango National Park we inspected the old Yango Station Shearing Complex which was supposedly the largest shearing shed in the Southern Hemisphere at its peak. In the 1922 shearing season there were over 93,000 sheep shorn with 40 shearers working together. I cannot image the number of workers employed to support such a team...these would consist of men to pick up fleece and throw it on the sorting table, men pressing the wool and men quickly sweeping the floors ready for the next sheep to be shorn....and do not forget the meals to be cooked...several buckets of potatoes would have been peeled each morning.

A section of the Yango Shearing Shed
The Shearing Season would have been a huge and exciting event!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

August 13th 2017

We have enjoyed our R&R day at Lake Pamamaroo which is part of the Menindee Lake system. Being Sunday morning we opted for a slow start. About 10.00 am our faithful friends who can always find us, no matter where, John & Beth arrived along with the excuse to return the hot water bottle we had lent to Beth for her very stiff and sore shoulder. She seems recovered and ready for the last few days of their trip to Lake Tyers in Victoria.
Darling River in Kinchega NP

A luncheon picnic excursion seemed the best way to spend our Sunday. Off we went to explore Kinchega National Park. We camped there years ago in a tent..probably last century! The little that I remembered seemed to be the very grey landscape...soil, trees and river banks. This aspect has not changed but the river is now a soft green colour instead of looking like chocolate milk.

The wonderful old River Red Gum trees along the Darling R. are huge. The branches and trunks are twisted by floods and weather...some trees must be 500 to 1000 years old. They rely on floods as their life blood and in latter years the floods have not been so regular because of the upstream usage of the water. The Darling Channel is steep and deep. I find it hard to imagine a flood which would have to escape this channel before it could spread out onto the flats where many trees exist. There were some flood height markers which seemed very high to me but I am sure they would be 1976 & 2007.

The NP was once known as Kinchega Station. Much of this has been noted and preserved especially the old Shearing Shed..the only thing missing from this was the smell of sheep (that I don't really care for!) We spent quite some time wandering around the Shearing Shed, Shearers Quarters and various memorabilia. At the peak of wool production and with 64 shearers using blades, it is said that 72, 000 sheep were shorn....what an undertaking to organise the whole process.

 The stories about the Homestead and River Boats were interesting. Late 1800s the boats served to transport mail, wool and general supplies as well as people, up the river from Wentworth. The Station Communities suffered very hard lives with difficult working and living conditions.

The day has been warm with a clear sky but cool air is creeping in now that the evening is settling. Again we enjoyed a walk along the shore of the lake. Kangaroo and emu marks were evident in the sandy waters edge. We returned to camp along the road and John even spied the winding   track left by a snake..

Saturday, August 12, 2017

August 12th 2017
Beautiful wattle near the water's edge

Evening view from pour van 
We said good-bye to Broken Hill soon after 9.00 am. The morning was clear after a mild frost. It only took us a short  while to drive east to Menindee Lakes where we have camped on the west side of the lake quite close to the water. The country in this area is quite barren with undulating sand dunes. Emus were the only creatures we saw apart from a Kangaroo that crossed the road in front of us. Unexpectedly her joey jumped from her pouch in the middle of the road. We slowed to a stop. Mother kangaroo came to a halt and young joey jumped back into his rightful place. The joey was small with gangly legs and would have found it difficult to jump the remaining few metres across the road.

Spring is coming as many daisy bushes bloom

After lunch we drove around the lake but there are few campers..a pity really as the weekend is warm. We walked for 30 minutes along the edge of the lake, enjoying the few birds that were enjoying the water. Late in the afternoon a message came through from Beth & John to say they were also camped on the lake. We were unaware that their plans had changed as ours had!

Friday, August 11, 2017

August 11th 2017

During the night John had the good idea for us to spend another day in Broken Hill. Years ago we spent time in this mining city but there are many new developments since we visited.

Outback Dunny 
Firstly we visited the Super Market in order to cater for the last few meals before we return to Milawa. I had packed our lunch ready for a trip out to Silverton. Off we went, travelling west for about 25 km. We visited two Art Galleries which proved to be very entertaining....some artists have the ability to weave a great sense of humour  into their work. One item was an Outback Dunny which had a brightly painted door with a sign which said 'NO ENTRY FEE' and a second sign saying DANGER - OPEN HOLE'. If you look carefully you can see under the door there are 2 strategically placed feet with boots on!

 Lunch time was upon us so we drove another 10 km to the Umberumberka Reservoir where we sat in a small picnic area looking over the water which was really very low. This lake was initially made to service the mining industry in the area. The country is undulating and very barren. The road curves through low hills and advertising for Silverton and the Reservoir features this statement..beyond 39 dips. It was rather like a 'switch-back' railway.

After returning to Broken Hill I went to the Regional Art gallery for 40 minutes or so while John spent time in the local ARB store. The exhibition featured at the Gallery was the '2017 Pro Hart Outback Exhibition' It was an exciting display which I really enjoyed. The winning entry was superb! The Regional Gallery is housed in a beautifully restored old Emporium which was opened as a gallery about 10 years ago.

The evening has become quite cool after a warm and sunny day. Tomorrow we plan to travel a short distance south to Kinchega National Park with the hope that the warm weather continues.

August 10th 2017

A warm and very windy day. It was hard to leave our sheltered camp spot. Yes, we did see and hear trains on the line, mostly freight trains but one passenger train..The Indian Pacific..what fun those passengers will have all the way to Perth.

Corrugated building which houses the Museum of Radium Hill
John was hopeful of visiting the site of the Radium Hill Mine where radium was first found in 1906. However we were unable to make phone contact with the landowner where the site is. John did speak to the owner of Tikalina Station which we needed to drive through, and she was most helpful and allowed us to go as far as the Homestead where the Museum for Radium Hill is housed. It is quite a well kept display of historical reports of activities within the mining township as well as the mine and the men and women who worked there. This visit gave us more information and will encourage us to begin our arrangements earlier,  and hopefully gain permission for entry, before we plan a trip up/down the Barrier Highway.

The last kms to Broken Hill were easy driving on a very good bitumen road. The landscape is mostly flat and arid with some hills and trees.

We have camped in the Broken Hill Tourist Park which, is thankfully, very clean. We visited the Information Centre so we can plan our trip home through NSW.

Me with my lovely daughter
Cynthia and David have come up to Broken Hill as part of a short trip in Outback NSW while Cynthia is recuperating. We met them late in the day for a long 'catch-up' and enjoyed a delightful meal together at the Royal Exchange Hotel where they are staying. It was so good to see Cynthia well on the way to recovery. It also gave us the opportunity to thank David for all the care he gave Cynthia during her rescue and transport to the Alice Springs Hospital.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

August 9th 2017

I felt sad to be leaving Beth and John this morning, but they chose to enjoy another night at Quorn. The town has delightful old buildings which have been restored or kept in good condition. Last night we had our evening meal at Emily's Bistro which has been operating for 7 years but prior to that it was an Emporium for many many years. This would have been a large shop which catered for many needs, ranging from clothes, shoes, kitchen equipment and food...'you name it'. An important shop in such a remote rown. Today's decorations were quaint with many old boxes and tins displayed with old fashioned labeling.

Our main aim for the day was to reach the Barrier H'way and travel toward Broken Hill. John was keen to go 'across country' and drive through the hills and farmland areas. We actually saw many deserted farms, old dilapidated homes and dry country with acres of salt bush growing. Eventually we came into cropping country where wheat was showing green in the paddocks...presumably wheat and presumably there had been some rain. We found several ideal sites for camping on the Boolcunda and Yanyarrie Creeks. There were a few cattle and sheep but what a tough life for them.
Golden wattle

We drove over a high pass and stopped to walk up to the Black Rock Lookout. There were Mallee Gums which are large and strong mallee trees. The other bush was a very highly perfumed Golden Wattle bush. Apart from many hawks hovering over the fields we only recognised two types of birds..the very striking Lincoln Ringneck parrot and the Mulga parrot with its many colours.

Tonight we are camped along the Barrier Highway between Olary and Manna Hill. We have settled in a dry creek bed in between the rail line bridge and the highway bridge. The rail takes trains from Broken Hill to Port Augusta including the Indian Pacific Train. Both the rail line and highway are the main connecting links between Sydney, Broken Hill and Perth with southern connections to Adelaide from Port Augusta....You wont believe this but just as I am typing a very long freight train went over the bridge with a long whistle toot for us camped down below on the creek bed. We are probably in for a noisy night with trains and trucks.

Our van between the rail line and an old and new bridge

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

August 8th 2017

Lake Hart showing white salt and blue water
We drove by many salt lakes today, but Hart Lake was the most spectacular with the edges bright white with salt. It is a large lake as many are. One other salt lake fascinated us as lumps of salt had formed on the water and appeared like ice-bergs in the Antarctic.

Yes, the morning was cold as expected..0.7 deg. We do not look forward to the frosts of NE Victoria but heating should be better in 'Kyamba' than in our Jayco.

The sky was blue with only a few clouds and the sun quickly warmed us up as we travelled SE to Port Augusta. The bitumen road makes for easy driving and travelling. The scenery along this section of the Stuart Highway is remarkably flat with a treeless horizon. It is hard to credit after we have driven through so many trees and rocky hills.

Sadly there were many dead kangaroos lying on the roadside or worse still in the middle of the road. We did not see one live kangaroos so maybe these deaths happen in the evening, early morning or at night with the animals being dazzled by the lights of huge Road Trains which cannot afford to swerve for a kangaroo.

The latter part of the journey to Port Augusta  found me watching the curving trail of a water pipe, a railway line and of course our road...what lovely stitching lines! The pipe delivers water from our Murray River to Coober Pedy which is a long, long way. Maybe people in Coober Pedy use water that has fallen in the Ovens and King Valleys.

There was not one train to be seen which disappointed us because we have seen wonderful long trains on the line when we have travelled this road before. The Ghan Train goes from Darwin to Port Augusta. The Indian Pacific travels from Sydney to Perth going through Port Augusta .There are mining trains and fright trains as well. We heard a whistle blow once, but no trains!

We have continued on to Quorn this evening. What a pretty drive though the Pichi Richi Pass. We are camped in a small park at Quorn which will satisfy all our requirements.

August 7th 2017 

The 4 of us left Marla by 9.00 am and headed south down the Stuart H’way. It was fun to travel with Beth and John again. Generally speaking the country is flat with only a few hills. Often the vegetation was sparse, but the  all plants growing, looked healthy. There must have been a shower of rain during the last few months. Mulga trees were the most common but other plants such as yellow cassias, red hop bush, blue/green of the salt bush and green of the mulga bushes made a delightful garden show. We are fascinated that all the new bitumen has been surfaced with crushed 'red rock'. It blends with the scenery so very well.

Red Red Road..taken through Toyota windscreen.
Closer to Coober Pedy the colour in the mullock heaps is, of course, the colour of the earth..white to pale cream and many variations of tan, orange and rust all toning together. There are hundreds of mullock heaps so there must be many miners still digging this earth in search for opals.

After finding a very well stocked IGA Super Market and doing my shopping, we had lunch and continued on our way arriving at a roadside camping area that we have camped in before. It is 30 or 40 kms north of Glendambo. So here we are under a clear blue sky amongst the Western Myall trees. It feels as though we could have quite a cold night. Our fire is alight with camp oven roast lamb cooking. Yum!

Later...Yes the lamb was delicious and we all enjoyed it with a glass of red wine!

August 6th 2017

After 11 hours in bed we both woke early and were up and ready to leave our camp by 9.00 am. The Stuart Highway does not have a lot of interesting points of interest. We checked out where others had camped and admired the lovely Cassias in bloom by the road side. Of course the bitumen road is in excellent condition. Upper most in our minds is a meeting point with Beth and John Harrison—our friends from ‘way back’ Late morning we stopped at Marla which has a Roadhouse, café, caravan park, Restaurant, swimming pool, laundry etc. We decided to book in for the night and hopefully the Harrisons would catch us tomorrow.

June, John, Beth & John eating out at the Marla Roadhouse

We were just getting settled when John Harrison appeared and then Beth of course. We do not see one another often so it is a fun reunion chatting about our rigs, roads and trips. Tonight we plan to dine here together and possibly travel together tomorrow.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

August 5th  2017

Late last night, unbeknownst to us, a cyclist arrived and set up camp a short distance from our van. We both had a short chat with him. He was a South Korean fellow. He had spent 30 years in the South Korean Army and was now, in retirement, he is exploring the world on his bicycle. Yesterday he had ridden 170 km from Alice Springs and was heading for Uluru today which is over 200 kms. Next was south to Adelaide and then Melbourne..what a ride. He spoke very little English.

We have had news from Beth and John Harrison who seem to be going is a similar direction to what we are. We are hopeful of meeting them but as yet have had no message or call. I had good service at Erldunda where the Lasseter High’way  meets the Stuart Highway . After that we have had very little service ….only Roaming WiFi.

Blue Bush in flower
Lunch was enjoyed under a small tree on the road to Finch about a km from Kulgera. We watched cattle being herded by two guys on motor bikes. When they were done they both took off after an emu which seemed to out smart them. PS we accidentally left our van step in the sand near the cattle yards!

We crossed the border soon after Kulgera and found a roadside camp early in the afternoon. The clouds in the sky have disappeared with no rain in sight but probably another cold night.

August 4th 2017

Off to a good start after the temperature dived own to 1 deg by 6.30 am. We were glad of our generator and little heater.

The sun and a clear blue sky soon warmed the day to about 18 deg. It took us 1.5 hours to drive, on an excellent road, to the Curtin Springs Roadhouse . Yes, they have room for us in the 10.30 am tour of the paper making factory. In fact we were the only two participants so we had a very personal tour from our very little Japanese girl called ‘Maya’. She was competent at her job so we were able to ask whatever questions we wished.

Stirring the grass pulp

Flower heads and seeds to be used in the paper making process

The Papermaking process has been set up in an old abattoir building which allowed for water to drain and provided a good wash-down area. The paper is made from grasses and a few other products collected on the property.....kerosene grass, kangaroo grass, spinifex spikes, mulla  mulla flowers, cow poo, red clay or sand,  bark, flowers and seeds. The native grasses are harvested by hand using a pair of secateurs, a hessian sack and the knowledge of the Curtain Spring lands and grasses. We actually made an A5 sheet of paper while we were there. The paper is suitable for an endless array of uses. My immediate thought is to use some in bookmaking. I was able to purchase quite a few pieces so we will wait and see the results. The gallery displayed many creative ways that the paper could be used including  pendants and earrings.

We enjoyed a hamburger at the Curtin Springs Roadhouse then drove slowly on to find a camp for the night. On the way we called at the amount Ebernezer Roadhouse. This was a complete surprise for us. The Imanpa Aboriginal Settlement is nearby. Those residents who are interested in painting, work in the Art Room at the Roadhouse and display their work in the Gallery. The Roadhouse is very nicely operated with a café, small shop, a dining room and a gallery where the art work is displayed so very artistically. Once again, I was tempted to buy a couple of items. I met the young Imanpa lady artist who painted one of the items that I purchased. She was pleased to speak to me and brought her small daughter to meet me. This same lady has painted the tops of the Restaurant tables as well as the doors in the toilet. She is a careful and creative artist.

We have enjoyed our ‘creative’ day and tonight we are camped by the side of the Lasseter Highway at a Truck Stop.

August 03rd  2017

What a privilege we have had today! We both walked the Rim Walk of Kings Canyon. The walk is 6 km in length and we took exactly 3 hours. Words are difficult to find when describing this natural formation of nature. It has taken millions of years of weathering, growth and change to appear as we saw it this morning. I found it to be sensational and inspiring  for the colours, the shapes, massed rocks and the special feeling of being amongst all the age old natural formations…enough said. I do hope that all of ‘my readers’ will make the opportunity to climb and walk around this amazing formation. Don’t be put off by the very steep climb to actually be able to walk around the rim. This first climb took us 30 minutes to complete. I was glad of my hiking stick and my sturdy shoes. When we first set out, the sky was completely clouded but very soon we realised the sun was out and by the time we had returned to the car park the sky was clear.
Red Red Rocks of Kings Canyon

The afternoon was spent driving, quite slowly, along the Luritja road which allowed us to enjoy all this magnificent country. It leads down to Lasseter Highway and then out to the Stuart Highway. An interesting program at Curtin Springs is the making of paper. We are still hoping to take part in a tour but have not been able to contact the Roadhouse.

June & John walking the rim of Kings Canyon

This morning, at Kings Canyon Resort the temperature went down to 1 deg and already, with a clear sky at 4.45pm there is a nip in the air. We have camped by the road side amongst the Desert Oak trees and John has collected some wood to make a fire, primarily to cook some steak for dinner...a celebration of a great day. The Desert Oaks are gently whispering in the breeze. They are distinctive trees and very pretty to camp among. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

August  2nd  2017

When we rose this morning the temperature was 5.1 deg but within an hour it had dived down to 4.1 deg. This is much colder then we have had. We were keen to leave early and actually drove out the Redbank Campgound gate at 8.15 am. Our Permit to drive the Mereenie  Loop was dated for 02-08-2007. This was to be a continuous trip with only one stop allowed and No Camping. Surprisingly we had more bitumen road than expected. The Namatjira Drive connects with Larapinta Drive to form the Mereenie Loop  It was originally developed when the Mereenie Oil Wells were opened. Most of the Mereenie Loop was a wide gravel winding road which varied in quality. We took one diversion and that was to take a closer look at Gosse Bluff which is actually part of a meteor site. It is a beautiful area with a wide variety of trees and beautiful red/brown rocky crags and bluffs which at this hour of the morning appeared to be dark red/purple in colour.

Gosse Bluff
There were very many trees and bushes to be seen ..some of  which were flowering. We could not identify them all but many we familiar with….Desert grass- trees which have an unpronounceable name  ‘Xanthorrhoea thorntonii’, Mallee trees with lovely blue/green glaucous leaves, Kurrajong trees, Acacias, Cassias, Spinifex, Desert Oak trees, Euclyptus socialis which was displaying cream coloured  flowers, Thryptomene and Grevilleas.
The drive was enjoyable with wonderful scenery nearly always dominated by beautiful rocky ranges displaying the ‘bones of the earth’.

There was much evidence of brumbies but we did not see a single horse. We saw no other animals and only a few birds..finches and a few budgies. An interesting Speed restriction sign was
 LIFT UM FOOT.....get the message
Speed Restriction message

We booked into the Camping Ground at Kings Canyon Resort so I did some  much needed washing..everything becomes so dirty with so much dust everywhere. The background mountain to this park is the magnificent range that encompasses Kings Canyon. The park itself is crowded and facilities could be a lot cleaner

August 1st 2017

Ghost Gum Lookout in Ormiston Gorge
Another great day in the Australia Inland. We woke to hear very strong winds but no rain only clear skies. We continued with our plan which was to climb up to Ghost Gum Lookout  and continue along the Ghost Gum walk which returns to the Camping area via the gorge. The views were spectacular and the wind very strong. I have skied in such winds but this was a little different with spinifex and red rocks to edge the pathway. The last section of the track was over very large rocks which were challenging for me with short legs! We completed the walk in good time.

With our ‘pack up’ finished we left Ormiston Gorge with a call at Glenn Helen, again, to fill the rig with fuel and water. Today I was able to tune into the free Wi-Fi which enabled a broken chat with Anneshka. She and John are now back in Peru with EC22.

By lunch time we were at Redbank Gorge. After a quick lunch we set out for the water hole at the top of the gorge. It took us a surprising amount of time because there were large rocks and sand to  battle through. Again I must say that climbing large rocks is not easy. However we did reach this very attractive narrow gorge and water hole. We were here about 20 years ago and I remember little about the walk along the dry river bed. The main thing I remember is that a member of our party stripped her clothes to the bare essentials and dived in, only to find the water was very chilly. The water today appeared green with algae.

Straw Necked Heron In Ormiston Gorge

From the riverbed there is a second path which leads off toward the summit of Mt Sonder..this is the final step of the Larapinta Trail. Cynthia and David did this climb leaving camp for the assent at about 3.00 am with the aim to see the sunrise.

We are both weary this evening, but we are making plans for an early departure as we will travel the Mereenie Loop which is over 200km of gravel road.
July 31st 2017

Ochre Pits
After a windy night while a cold front went through the West MacDonnell Ranges we awoke to a 6 deg morning. Our day has had some plan changes but we have enjoyed the Ochre Pits and Ormiston Gorge, where we are camped for tonight. The Gorge itself has a wide sandy beach and clear green water. Prior to lunch we decided to drive to Glen Helen, the 2 Mile Camp in the Finke River and the lookout for Mt Sonder, which is a majestic mountain at the most westerly end of the Larapinta Trail. Our lunch time arrival at Glen Helen,  quickly made us alter our plans to lunching at the Resort Cafe….a pleasant change from regular salad, sandwiches and rice rolls.

The camp area here at Ormiston Gorge is nearly full this evening. It has basic facilities and is dusty under foot. It is unusual that there is a daily kiosk which is very popular. Red Gums, Bloodwoods and Mulgas are the most common trees. The  little red and black Mistletoe bird has been very active because the infestations of mistletoe are large and there are many of them.
There has been a little R&R to complete the day and sausages with salad are on the menu tonight.

Mt Sonder

Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 30th 2017
Reflections in Ellery Creek Big Hole

We have had a lovely day exploring two more Gorges along the West MacDonnell Ranges. Firstly we visited Ellery Creek Big Hole which is a most popular place with both a Camping Area and Day Visitor facilities. From here we walked the Dolomite Track which is 3 km in length. It follows the Larapinta Trail for 1 kilometre and then loops around the hills and returns to the Camping area. It was rocky rough but with my faithful stick I managed the distance quite well. The close view of the country, the rocks and plants was part of the pleasure.

Last year, at about this time, Cynthia and David  walked the 240 km long Larapinta Trail. It took them about 12 days from memory. When I see the West MacDonnell Ranges in reality it makes me realise what a mammoth effort it was..beginning  in Alice Springs and finishing at Redbank Gorge and climbing Mt Sonder which is a stately mountain overlooking the whole range. It is not the highest mountain in the Northern Territory as this honour goes to nearby Mt Zeil.

Early afternoon we walked the 1.1 km, from the Carpark, to see Serpentine Gorge. I found the walk a little arduous as the day was quite hot. Unexpectantly , we found the Gorge to be quite Spiritual. There were over a dozen people there and everyone was totally quiet. So quiet that we felt we were waiting for the music to begin. We both found the experience to be totally remarkable.
Mini Richie Bark

Now where to Camp? We drove up to the Henderson Lookout to see the view..the sign said ‘Twenty-four hour camping allowed’…So here we are up on high for the night with a magnificent view of the West MacDonnell Ranges. There is a ‘Hot Spot’ up here so we can gain telephone connection so we were able to ring Cynthia. With the help of the Dongle I am able to 'Post' a couple of blogs..but no photos.

These Ranges are very different with so many rocks visible along the top and side of the hills. In places there is little or no soil and only a few trees and spinifex in view. John has coined the phrase ‘the bones of the earth’ are visible! It is an apt expression. I can see a long snake or dinosaur making its way along the tops of the mountains. 
 July 29th 2017.

We have had a varied day with some travelling, saying Good bye to ‘Alice Springs’, driving west to refresh our memories about the West MacDonnell Ranges and enjoying the warm weather. These Ranges are striking all over again with rugged red/brown rocks showing layer upon layer of sheer drops of rock and earth with a small amount of grasses which could be spinifex mixed with some small eucalypt ghost gums. Along the wide dry river beds there are River Red gums which are similar to those we have at home but are slightly different.. a different sub-species. They are delightful trees with white/grey/ brown trunks and wide spreading limbs.
Firstly  we drove into Simpsons Gap which has a wide dry river bed but with quite a large pool of water in the Gap. The cliffs are rough, sheer, rocky and a deep red/brown colour. We made the short walk along the sandy river bed to the Gap to the large pool water.

Onward to Stanley Chasm. This Tourist spot has become quite commercialized. We could not find a park unless we walked for a kilometre. Many years ago we went into the Chasm itself to see the sun shine directly down for a few minutes around midday. We did not wait for this but saved the image in our memories. Interestingly, late last century, I purchased a beautiful dress and shawl, which had been hand dyed and made by Trudy Billingsley. The colour of the dress had been inspired by Stanley Chasm so, as you can imagine, it is a delightful brick orange colour similar to the rocks of the West MacDonnell Ranges. I really love this brick red orange colour.

Water in Simpsons Gap

From here we branched onto Namatjira Drive, guided by the map about the West MacDonnell National Park and assisted by Wiki Camps we left the main road, and followed the sign post to Hugh Gorge. We had not heard of this Gorge before. The road was very rough so we found a lovely flat camp on the banks of the Hugh River which of course was dry. After setting up camp, we ate our lunch then set off, without the van, to find Hugh Gorge and Birthday Waterhole. The road/track was wild, rocky and rough so eventually we turned back and slowly came back to our camp and enjoyed a relaxing few hours under the shade of a large Red Gum tree. There are no birds or animals here…presumably because there is no nearby water. The area is very dry and flowers are yet to bloom.

Friday, July 28, 2017

July 27th  & 28th  2017... Alice Springs 

This morning was certainly cooler..a warning of southern temperatures I am sure.
We had quite a long chat with Bronwen and Graham before we finally left about 9.30. The W.W.2 Staging Camp provided a great place for free camping. It is open and uncrowded with is space for many camping rigs.

The Stuart Highway provides easy driving, with some very pretty views of the undulating country, especially the mountain ranges. There were several magnificent Mesa Hills. The rocky tops were stark and sheer and I imagine nearly impossible to climb. There were many rest stops along the way, the most interesting one was the Crossing of The Tropic of Capricorn. We also passed the turn off onto the Tanami Road where we have travelled several times in earlier years.

I noticed that there were many roadside trees which were infested with Mistletoe Maidenii. It is different from other mistletoes in that it has glaucous grey/green leaves and the flowers are the same colour as the leaves.

We saw Graham & Bronwen several times along the road--- eating lunch and stopped at a roadside service station...all quite unplanned! 

We arrived in Alice Springs mid afternoon and have camped in the Big 4 Park. It is a clean and well cared for park. We went to a nearby Tavern for dinner. 
Driving Through Heavitree Gap in Alice Springs

The second day in 'Alice' was busy firstly with laundry chores and Super Market shopping to stock up on supplies for the next week. We did enjoyed lunch with Gary Renkin at the nearby 'Star of Alice Cafe'. Gary kindly spent some time with John checking out his 'mal-functioning CB radio'...unfortunately without much success.

I had arranged to meet Bronwen for a couple of hours wandering through shops in the Alice Springs Mall. We enjoyed all the Art Galleries especially. Eventually we found a Patchwork & Quilting Shop which appeared to stock only 'Aboriginal Designed' fabrics. They were lovely bright fabrics typical of the designs used in the local paintings. I was pleased to purchase an unusual brick-red piece.....cushion covers maybe??

Friday night we went to 'Barra on Todd' which is a really great restaurant with a large range of meals. John & I both chose a lamb meal...the last lamb chops were purchased in Winton and were less than satisfactory. Bronwen and Graham joined us so we enjoyed a fun night with good company, good food and good wine.

 July 26th 2017

We left the lovely camp on Whistle Duck Creek at around 9.00 am. It was quite a good trip out through the bush and lots of dry creek beds, some  of which show a flood depth of 2 metres..this is surprising but debris is visible high in the tree branches, so it must be a realistic measurement.

I was lucky to see a Mistletoe Maidenii as we drove by. The leaves are quite grey/green glaucous in colour and so are the flowers. Another plant I saw on passing was the Cockroach bush which belongs to the Cassia family.
We were lucky to be able to follow the grader as he worked on the very roughest part of the road. We passed him and were travelling slowly along the section of road which was set aside for traffic when a vehicle and van raced passed us on the wrong side of the road and amid the dust. Surprise surprise!!

Back on the Stuart Highway again we soon came to the Devils Marbles. What an amazing arrangement of huge rounded rocks. Further south we stopped in at Wauchope with the plan to buy fuel and found it to be $1.79 per litre so we only put a small amount in the truck…we will wait for a cheaper option!

We camped the night on the old World War 2 Army Staging Camp. It is a deserted wide flat space with some concrete pads which are most suitable to park a van on. We had been there an hour or so when who should appear, walking toward our van but my good friend Bronwen Menner. She and her husband Graham were camped in the area as well. We spent some time chatting with them and will catch up again in Alice Springs where we should arrive tomorrow some time.There are about 15 or 20 rigs camped on this free site. We had a view of Taylors Creek which is a wide dry and sandy creek bed.

July 24th & 25th  2017  Davenport National Park

 The ‘desert wind’ following us all day from The Pebbles/ Kunjarra  onto the Stuart Highway and continued most of the day. The highway is a wide bitumen road with distant inland mountains making the scenery very attractive.

After visiting Tennant Creek, which is really much larger than I had remembered, we turned east onto the Kunara / Epenarra Road which was gravel and has brought us here to The Davenport National Park. The road was rather rough in patches but the variety of plants and trees provided a great deal of interest. In fact I had to request several  ‘photo stops’. I could not identify all the trees ..wattles, eucalypts, hakea, grevillea, cassia and melaleuca with many in flower. The drive through the beautiful red-rock hills toward the Davenport Park was quite a slow journey but eventually we camped at a waterhole on Whistle Duck Creek. It was a pretty spot and the water  proved to be clear and clean..maybe some washing. We have paid to stay for 2 nights.

During the early morning we heard dingoes howling and both nights a donkey neighing ‘Hee Haw’

The second day has been fine and warm. We went off for a short walk along the Injaidan Waterhole. The water looked deep and was flanked by a magnificent sheer rock face wall. The trees show a collection of debris collected during the last flood. There is a huge variety of trees..several gums and several wattles one of which is the low growing Curry Wattle that smells distinctly of curry when you rub the leaves in your fingers.

Back at the camp we have spent quite awhile watching and trying to identify the birds which include a Rainbow Bee-eater, Zebra Finches, Corellas, a Straw Necked Heron, a Black Cormorant, Lincoln Ring Neck Parrots, several Butcherbirds, Pigeons and several very tiny honeyeaters.

Our day has been restful and definitely what was needed after the drive in on the hilly gravel road…tomorrow we will attack it again..perhaps an early start. I am about 30 minutes ahead all the time because of the time difference in NT!

Late morning on Monday, David & Cynthia were to leave Alice Springs. David will have set out to drive his truck  home, carrying the 2 motor bikes and Cynthia will have flown to Melbourne to be collected and taken to Oxley by Helen & Neil Brock.

Sorry, no photos tonight as the 'server cannot be found'!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

July 23rd 2017

The bitumen surface of the Barkly Highway allowed us to be on the Stuart Highway by lunch time...the first sign after we left the Roadhouse told us that the speed limit was 130...we are not accustomed to that in Victoria and we certainly cannot tow our caravan at that speed!!

The bush-land either side of the road was low with a few Bloodwood trees showing their high blooms. Grevilleas and acacias were also in bloom but we were unable to stop. The only one I could identify while travelling was the Holly Grevillea. We have been surprised over the weeks we have been travelling just how many burnt patches there are. I am unsure how these fires start. Often I think the bush benefits from being burnt with a low fire because some seeds need the heat to crack them open ready for the first rain

Red Bud Mallee Eucalypt in bloom
Again there were many quite large termite nests. Some had a point of difference because they had been dressed in discarded  clothing to make them look like people! One even had a 'roadworks' witch's hat on to give a look of distinction!

 Three Ways Roadhouse is 187 kms from the Barkly Roadhouse. There was phone connection at this busy place, so we sat for awhile in the shade and ate our lunch then made a couple of phone calls. While this was happening I noticed a Red Bud Mallee eucalypt in bloom...a very distinctive tree.

We have driven out to the Pebbles Tourist site
Grey Cassia with yellow blooms and green seedpods
this afternoon and set up camp for the evening. There is only a very short walk here so that is disappointing. However I did find a couple of attractive Cassia bushes in bloom. The weather is a comfortable temperature but very windy. Toward evening we have realised that many other people have had the idea to camp here with us..luckily we are in the corner of the small fenced area.

Good news today as I have been advised that my quilt, entered in Art Quilt Australia 2017 has been accepted. 50 quilts have been juried in, for display, out of 76 entries.