Friday, 6 January 2017

Heading North Bound for the Kimberleys

Well finally we were heading north again into the warmer weather. Our plan was to leave Alice Springs to our south as we headed a thousand kilometres north to Katherine where we would turn left and head for the West Australia border and the Kimberley's. Could not wait to get out of the cold desert weather of Central Australia.

As I write this blog I am sitting on the waters edge in Nelson at the bottom of South Australia. It's a few days into 2017 and it's 37 degrees C or 100 degrees in the old scale. I Shiver when I remember how cold it was for me in Central Australia in winter.We left Central Australia at the end of August after a month of cold winter weather. I have lived over half my life in the Tropics so am feeling quite OK with this weather. Yanina on the other hand has pretty much worn a channel across the beach to the cool Southern Ocean waves as she goes for yet another cool down dip......... averaging one about every 20 minutes.

You might also notice that yes I am still running true to form with our blog being many months behind. People always are asking us if we get bored just travelling around on our yacht or now in our little camper van.......guess the blog is a good indicator of all the free time we have ha ha.

 Our regular followers are used to it by now I guess, or have given up in frustration. For the many "newbies" we have following our land travels around Australia for a year all I can tell you is get used to it because it's not likely to ever be up to date if the last 4 years is any thing to go by.

So as I said we left  the Alice around end of August heading north. Time had become a bit of a problem for us as we spent a few to many weeks in the Red Centre and were now on a tight schedule if we were to make it down to the wild flowers in West Australia before they finished.

Our first over night stop after leaving Alice Springs was at the "Devils Marbles".
 A pretty desolate camp area around some very unusual piles of big rocks.
I was curious to see what was inside these rocks.............
amazing what a little effort can do isn't it.
Next day had us back in Tennant Creek where we had bought our new tyres 6 weeks
 earlier. It was a late lunch and cold dip at the towns water supply reservoir. A right turn
here takes you back towards Queensland but for us this time it would be straight
 ahead for another 500km then a left turn for West Australia. Like my highly
 informative navigation directions, must be my yachty background eh!!!!
No camping at the reservoir so we moved up to yet another pile of rocks,
 kind of a mini devils marbles. Not very interesting but it was a
 spectacular sunset with big storms around.
We had been told about a wonderful big waterway just outside of the small town of Elliot a few hundred K's up the road so decided to head there for a couple of days. I am so sick of looking at rocks...........big rocks, little rocks, canyon will be nice to camp on the edge of a lovely waterhole for a while.
One of the best tools we discovered early on in our road trip is the "Wiki Camps" app which we downloaded to our phone and tablet. For $8 you can register and download the off line version which gives you masses of detail about camp spots and attractions that people have found in their travels.
It is much more extensive than any of the books that are available and a must if, like us you are looking for free camps around Australia. We found the details about how to get to the waterhole through Wiki Camps. There are no signs so it came in very handy.
As we passed through the small town of Elliot headed for the turn off to the lagoon
 we noticed the town park was completely over run with a huge colony of
large Fruit Bats. Naturally I had to stop. For some unknown
reason Yanina is a great fan of bats.
When you find the Fruit Bats hanging on the fence posts you
 known there is to many of them
Elliot long hole waterway, an oasis in an otherwise very dry part of the world.
Permanent water and thousands of waterbirds of all varieties.
This has to be one of the best free sites in Australia
In our travels whether on the yacht or now in the camper van we are continually
 amazed at some of the wonderful people we meet. Here was no exception
 and we had a great 3 days with new friends yet again.
This big guy was as curious about us as we were about him. Amazing how
 you find Pelicans out in the deserts of central Australia where
 ever there is a decent waterway.
Every evening great flocks of Pink n Grey Gallahs would fly in to watch the sunset.
 Well that was Yaninas theory. We all thought they actually came for a drink
 but they did seem to sit around and watch the sunset
 before heading for the water.
After what turned into a 4 day break on the waters edge it was back to highway driving.
 I tend to sit on about 95kph on the highway. Its a bit daunting when these
monster 55 metre long road trains still pass you though.
Next stop was the Mataranka hot springs. They are really only the warm springs but it
 still creates this wonderful tropical micro climate. You can float down the creek
 for about half a kilometre where it does a big loop then walk back the 100
metres to the start of the loop and do it again.
Very therapeutic and relaxing. 
Just south of Katherine is a small National park that does a cave tour. They have
 snakes and small Wallabies living in the cave to make it interesting. It is
 a very dirty cave as silt leaches down through the Limestone and covers
 everything with a brown stain. This flow stone was unique in that
 it had a clean side and a dirty side.
OK so finally we reached Katherine. Just 300 km from the top of Australia we were
now firmly back into the tropics and warm weather.........really warm at 38c.
 A dip in the local springs fed creek was needed. Katherine is where we
would turn left and head into Western Australia and
 the famous Kimberley region.
Katherine Gorge is a famous must see on the tourist maps. I thought it was
 very over rated and at $120 for a two hour boat tour
nothing short of a rip off.
On the other hand just up the road is Edith falls. A magnificent place with wonderful
 swimming and a great camp ground for $25 a night with full amenities
What a great place.......... Edith falls a must do.
Like I said turn left at Katherine and WA is just an easy 400 kilometres or so down
 the road. We stopped at this lookout just past the Victoria River roadhouse and
 ended up staying the night by the side of the highway. You just see our van
 behind Yanina. This is big country with big scenery.
The views from the lookout were breath taking.
 The rock formations unusual. 
You know you are getting into the Kimberley region when you start seeing
 the Boab trees.How old must this one be,
certainly many hundreds of years
Right before you reach the state border there is the Keep River national park.
 This park has very unusual rock formations as well as some very old
 Aboriginal art. There are a few long interesting walks worth doing. Its
also a good stop to use up the last of your fruit and veggies before
 crossing the border quarantine point into WA.
Aboriginals have been coming here for a very long time. They refresh their art
every so often so it is some times difficult  for the experts to age it properly.
This country is some of the oldest of this planet. Have to
 say the rock walls sure looked it.
Ah........a little bit of luxury with a few days in the Lake Argyle caravan park.
Lake Argyle is 8 times bigger than Sydney harbour and dams the
 Orde river turning this once arid land into an oasis of crops.
Has to be one of the best views from a
 swimming pool in the country.


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

We Head for Uluru, The Olgas and Kings Canyon

A lot of people relate the centre of Australia to Ayers Rock or Uluru as it is now known. It is the biggest monolith in the world, you can read that as biggest rock, and one of Australias best known attractions.

There are three main attractions in the area of which Uluru is certainly the most famous. The other two spectacular formations are The Olagas and Kings Canyon. These are both amazing places as well and no visit to Uluru would be complete without doing all 3 sights.

Jeez.........I'm starting off like a bloody tour guide here.........anyway the thing is Alice Springs has always been considered the jump off point for a visit. The reality though is that Uluru is almost 500 km drive from Alice Springs so to do the round trip to these three marvellous locations from the Alice you can expect to drive around a 1000 km. Kind of makes you understand just how big this country is especially when you think that we have already done over 4000 km just to get from  Cairns to Alice Springs.

So if your looking at our blog to do a bit of research about driving to the "Red Centre" you might pay particular attention to those few distances. Reason I make a point of this is that almost every overseas visitor we talk to out here who is driving makes some comment about how they had no idea it would take so long or that the areas they would cover were so empty.

Anyway back to us..........we spent the last day in Alice with a visit to the Alice Springs Desert Park. Sometimes animals can amaze you. Look at the pics below for a great "politically incorrect" remedy to being bullied.

So the big guy starts to pick on the little guy......typical bully attitude

But the little guy hes not scared because he knows most
 bullies are cowards at heart eh!!! So he takes the initiative

The little guy well he knows he might take a few hits but if he wants to 
stop the bullying in the future he just has to go for it

In the end the little guy holds his own and prevails......and that will
 be the last time the big guy picks on him. Wonder if we should
 tell our kids that's how it used to be done.

I just love those pictures, can't help thinking a lot of school kid problems might not exist if we weren't such a "nanny state" these days. 

OK I formally apologise to all the parents and teachers out there that are now saying bad things about me Ha Ha ............did have 6 kids though so can talk with some experience. 

This was really interesting. I remember reading that it is mainly primates
 that use tools in the animal world but look how this Hawk has
 learnt to open the tough Emu eggs.

He picks up a rock and continually smashes it against 
the egg until it cracks.

A few good solid whacks with his rock and it's breakfast time.
Pretty amazing eh........

We also went to the 30 minute talk about Aboriginal "bush tucker" and
 how the Aboriginals survived in this harsh climate in the old days.
The Aboriginal guide made the mistake of telling Yanina he had 
plenty of time so the 30 minute talk lasted almost 2 hours

A feast of bush product like this could take a day to collect. These days of
 course it's a half hour trip to the Woolies or Coles supermarket in
 town for the feast. Now that's progress.......maybe.

So next morning we headed off for our 500 km drive to the centre of Australia. 
About half way Yanina finally found the real "red centre"
or the start of it anyway.

Late that afternoon we camped about 20 km from Uluru for sunset. The red soils 
of central Australia are famous but this year has been a once in a decade 
wet year and the ground is covered with a lot more green than red.

Dawn the next morning found us at the morning look out to see the sun rise 
onto the biggest rock in the world.

Climbing the rock.....should you or shouldn't you.

The big decision........climb it or walk around it. Aboriginals hold this place as being one of the most significant "dreamtime" sites in Australia. Their religion, the dreamtime, goes back over 40,000 years. Their culture is the oldest living culture on earth. When they ask the tourists not to climb the rock perhaps we should listen, but its slow work convincing the tourists.

We decided against climbing it and chose to do the 9 km walk around the base
 instead, well Yanina did, I chose to ride my folding bike.

Think the rock was happy to see us not climbing it........gave us a big smile anyway.

Over 300 metres high at it's tallest spot this is one hell of a big piece of rock.

Sunset at Uluru brings out an amazing range of colours

Sunset on our second day had lots of clouds and a completely different
 perspective of the rock

Turn 180 degrees and you find the massive pile of rocks known as The Olga's or
 more properly now Kata Tjuta. Actually quite a bit bigger than
 Uluru but made up of a number of different rocks.

A very interesting point we learnt from an Aboriginal guide is how the old Aboriginals used to use the Desert Oak tree (this is the trees you can see in the above picture) to find water. 

The tree grows very slowly and steadily but will not put out any side branches until the roots reach a reliable underground water table. By looking for Desert Oaks with branches low to the ground they were able to calculate how far down they would have to dig to find the shallowest water.

The lower the branches the shallower the water table. Considering these tress can live a thousand years it makes you wonder how many generations it took to work out how to measure the water depth.

About 20 minutes drive from the rock is the resort village of  Ulara. This is
 the service and accommodation hub for the area. They have a monopoly and 
make the most of it. We had a BBQ in the cheaper resort to celebrate my
 birthday. $30 each and you get to cook it yourself. Kangaroo steak,
 Crocodile sausage, Emu sausage. plus buffet salad. 
That's $60 sitting on the BBQ

The Olgas are made up of a series of large rock formations. The walk through
 them is well worth doing as it winds up, over, around 
and through the different formations.

The "over" sections were pretty trying.

...........and some of the "through" sections had a roaring wind
 whistling through the gaps.

...........whilst some of the "around sections were just plain beautiful 

You have to wonder how these trees could ever get a foot hold
 on the top of this huge 400 metre high rock

This wild Dingo is an unusual sight in the middle of the day. 
We also saw a wild Camel here.

Back on the road for the boring 250km detour out to Kings Canyon before heading back up to the Alice. Three days we thought was plenty to see Uluru and the Olgas. We free camped
 15 km outside of Ulara and bought a 3 day National Park
 pass for $25 to access the big rocks. 

Kings Canyon is a long detour between Alice Springs and Uluru.
The initial climb up from the valley floor is tough but the rest 
of the 8km rim walk was fairly level and interesting.

There is a great variety of different types of rock formation here
 that make it quite unique

Most unusual for our over regulated, over protective country........
no safety fences every where spoiling the outlook.

Glad we weren't down the bottom when this piece of wall sheared off

...........And so ended our visit to the rocky centre of Australia.
Next day we drove the 500 km back to Alice Springs