National Gathering 2015 and Ayers Rock

Friday, Jul 24, 2015 at 04:48

Member - milowise

Hi everyone,
Have you noticed that Milo has been a little quiet lately? Well let me tell you what we've been doing! We were to look after 3 of our grandchildren for the school holidays but, being winter, it wasn’t going to be so easy to keep them entertained. Grandpa decided we would go to the ExplorOz National Gathering and take the kids with us. It would mean they would miss the first few days of school term, but they would see a lot.
On Saturday, 27 June we left home, picked the kids up in Brisbane and were on our way to Chinchilla to meet up with other members of ExplorOz and travel in convoy to Ross River Station near Alice Springs. There we would meet members from other States for the 5 day gathering and would hold daily raffles to raise money for a worthy isolated, rural charitable organisation.
We followed the Warrego Highway to Charleville, went west to Quilpie, then took the Diamantina Development Road through to Boulia. For a nice change, the Donohue Highway had received some TLC and was, for the most part, a pleasure to drive.

We crossed the border into NT and refuelled at Tobermorey before finding a quiet spot to camp. The kids developed a routine for putting up and pulling down their tent and needed only a little assistance. By then, also, they had befriended the 2 other young girls on the trip (Sir Kev’s daughters) and had playmates to keep them happy.
Westward ho! along the notorious Plenty Highway which was also not as bad as last time – it wasn’t so good either. Hank’s windscreen copped a rock and Mike P was lucky to get this rim over the brake drum.
We detoured north to see the Box Hill Meteorite Crater and coped with awful corrugations that wrecked Hank’s exhaust system. Mike had to wire it up till we could get it replaced in Alice.

We did some food shopping when we arrived in Alice Springs and our grandchildren were very put out when they had to pay 50c each to go to the toilet in the shopping centre. They decided they didn’t think much of Alice after that.
Finally, after 7 unrushed and enjoyable days on the road, with lots of campfires and great company, we made it to Ross River Resort, 75ks west of Alice Springs in the East Macdonnell Ranges. We reconnected with lots of friends from our 2014 Gathering at Trilby on the Darling and were very glad we’d decided to attend.
The East Macdonnells are splendid. We did day trips to Corroboree Rock, Trephina Gorge and Ruby Gap.
On the way back from Ruby Gap we had a very quick look at some of the old remains of Arltunga, a historic gold mining town. A quick look because we had to get back to camp for the afternoon raffles. The kids each got to buy a ticket every day and always waited with bated breath for their names to be called. They were mostly disappointed, but when Finn's name came up, his reaction had everyone in stitches. He couldn’t believe it, eyes wide, "What, me?" Don’t think it would have mattered what his prize was. A big pack of peanut M&Ms and he enjoyed them. His cuppa tea took second place that day. His sisters were not impressed!
Wednesday night we had 'Christmas in July' celebrations at the Resort Dining Room. We all contributed a Christmas gift up to the value of $15 and Santa Kev, with his beard sprayed white, had a ball distributing the gifts! The meal was well worth the price we paid and we left appreciating the work Kev and Sam had done to organise this trip.
Grandpa decided we were too close to Ayer's Rock (about 500k) not to show them just how big it is, so we left Ross River 2 days early and headed south on the Stuart Highway. We arrived late afternoon and were astonished at the number of visitors at the caravan park. Our spot was in the overflow area and there would have been at least 50 vans and camper trailers on the dirt patch with us. Anyway, early next morning the children got to touch the Rock, which was our main objective. Their comments were "awesome, massive, beautiful, Grandma" – who had stayed back to pack up ready for a quick departure.
Off we set for the SA border. Overnight Friday at Marla, then Saturday 10 July we drove to Coober Pedy, oohed and aahed at the lumpy landscape, and felt the first bite of the Antarctic winds as we left Hank to find some lunch. We fought the elements all the way to Glendambo and Mike believed it was his worst ever day on the road. We've had many of those over the years.
We were lucky to find an old shed at the caravan park to shelter the kids and the tent for the night. The cold wind was unrelenting. Sunday wasn’t much better – Woomera, Port Augusta, Peterborough – then we turned north east, toward home, with the wind behind us. A cold night at Yunta with no old shed to shield them, the kids opted to sleep in Hank and were happy they did.
We crossed the NSW border next morning. There were lots of emus before the border and between there and Broken Hill the children loved watching the many goats with new baby kids playfully jumping about as we passed. Thousands of them. They wanted us to stop and take some home?????
Free WiFi had them voting Broken Hill their favourite place – oh, dear, we are definitely getting old. Mind you, they did spend a lot of time in the kids' playground, as well. We took them to Bell's Milk Bar for a spider, a look at the mining operations and the Living Desert sculptures. Tuesday we continued on the Barrier Highway to Wilcannia and Cobar, then north on Kidman Way to Bourke. Just before Bourke I breathed a sigh of relief. There were 3 wild camels near the road for the kids to see. I’d been searching for them all through the red centre and had almost given up hope.
Wednesday was another big day on the road.Bourke to Brewarrina, Walgett, Moree and Goondiwindi. It was overcast all day and we noticed water by the roadside, lush green grass in the paddocks and carpets of yellow wildflowers. At least some parts of the country were getting rain.
We free camped north of Goondiwindi and enjoyed a campfire for our last night together. We left two days early and didn’t get to see organiser, Kev, being shaved. We had auctioned his hair, except eyebrows, before we left and raised $270. Sorry we missed it, but glad we could contribute. Looks good, Kev.
Thursday 16 July we made it home. 7,400 kilometres in 20 days and we have to say the kids were great. We also now appreciate the value of iPads!
Till next time
Bye from the travelling Milos and Hank the Tank.
Mike and Lorraine Wise aka Milo
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