Trip to Central Australia - May to June 2006

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009 at 10:18

Member - Min (NSW)

4/5/06 Thursday – West Wyalong – West Wyalong Caravan Park ($19)
Travelled via Harden and Temora to West Wyalong. A beautiful day. Had dinner in Service and Citizens Club within easy walking distance from c’van park. Our drive through site backs onto the oval – feels like home. This place is called ‘The Quiet One’ – I’d hate to stay in ‘The Noisy One’. The trip was without event, through dry country with little traffic.

5/5/06 Friday – Euston – Riverside Caravan Park ($20)
Had to dispose of fruit (mostly down the hatch) as we entered the Fruit Fly Exclusion Zone – what a joke! Goolgowie looks a possibility for c’van park in future. Only the pub for meals.
Unfenced grazing – nearly hit a mob of sheep who emerged from a ditch in the side of the road and scuttled across. John did a nice job of braking so that we just missed the last one without jack-knifing.
Bought fruit in Hay and ate lunch in the park. Hay still looks very prosperous. Then took the road to Maude. It was a good choice as although longer there is no traffic and the road is sealed right through to the Sturt Hwy. Again, unfenced stock grazing. Got petrol in Robinvale after running out 20km back (we had cans). Not happy with the fuel gauge/pump. Could only put 52L in.
Staying in Euston rather than going on to Mildura because we would be too late getting in. This place is not good because there are a lot of pickers in and at 10.00 someone has just turned on loud country and western music. But then it is Friday night. The riverbank is very pretty and peaceful but we are not right on it. The amenities are clean but only 2 toilets and 2 showers and one of each of those is not functioning. The camp kitchen has no light and no water or sink.

6/5/06 Saturday – Mildura – Golden River Holiday Resort ($22)
This morning we awoke to find ourselves awash. Someone had put the sprinkler on on the vacant site next to us and left it on all night and we were in a lake by morning. What a bunch of wankers.
It was a foggy morning, becoming a fairly cloudy day. Quite humid, and we’re not used to it. After settling in did some shopping then went for a drive and walked around Lock 11 and the weir. As we were returning a came into the lock, which brought back memories of Russia and the Canals, or more particularly, Cookham, where Rosemary lives. We then had coffee on a restaurant and watched the world go by.
After preparing casserole went for a walk by the river. We are at Johnson’s Bend on the Merbein road.
This place is a big step up from last night, for only $2 extra. We have a very long concrete pad and are very comfortable. The only slight inconvenience is that the car races are on and we can hear them quite clearly even though they’re on the other side of town. Hopefully they’ll pack up by 10.00.

7/5/06 Sunday – Mildura
It was a wild and windy night and very cold today. We went to the botanic gardens and walked around the salt tolerant area (mallee), which was interesting. It was too cold to do any more. Went for a drive then back ‘home’. We noticed that many of the vines were losing their leaves but still had grapes on – wondered if they’re drying the fruit while still on the vine.

8/5/06 Monday – Broken HillBroken Hill Caravan Park ($23)
Stopped in Wentworth and looked at where the Murray and Darling Rivers meet. It is a lovely park with a lookout up a spiral staircase for a good view. We looked at the museum which was billed and something very special. It was okay as regional museums go but nothing quite matches Gulgong. Wentworth is a very pleasant town.
We drove at a leisurely pace to Broken Hill. There is nothing but a roadhouse along the way and the drive would have become tedious if it had been much longer.
The caravan park is quite comfortable. We are on pine bark which is surprisingly clean and easy underfoot. Did some shopping for dinner and stocked up. Went to the info centre. Cold and windy.

9/5/06 Tuesday – Broken Hill
It is our wedding anniversary and a bright and sunny day, warm in the sun. Did the washing then went to Jack Absolom’s Gallery. Jack answered the door and invited us to look around. His wife came in after he went out and we got chatting for quite some time about her family, her childhood, and about early mining. We enjoyed the paintings very much. There is also a very extensive opal collection there. From there we went to a photographic exhibition. I didn’t go in but John said it was very interesting. Then it was on to Pro Hart’s gallery. What an interesting, eclectic, amazing collection of art all jammed in together – his own work all mixed up with other Australian artists and artists from abroad. His four Rolls Royces are parked in the driveway. After lunch we went to Howard Steer’s gallery where we spent a hilarious hour or so talking to him. He is a clever, comical fellow and has painted a very funny series based on the flying doctor. After that we went up to the café overlooking BH and had coffee. Then it was home for dinner and champagne and chocolates.
10/5/06 Wednesday – Arkaroola ($20)
Our plan was to only drive as far as Yunta today and go to Arkaroola tomorrow, leaving all day for the trip as we were not sure of the road. We didn’t get away from BH until 9.30 after a leisurely pack-up and talk to some other Aussie Swag owners. We arrived in Yunta about 12 and drove in circles feeling depressed. In the end I refused to stay there saying we could go on to Arkaroola or on to Peterborough and up the Hawker road tomorrow. Arkaroola won out. It is 300km north with nothing in between except some sheep/cattle stations off the road.
The road was quite good and we were able to travel at 80 most of the time and occasional stretches of 90. Need to watch for stock and the occasional family of emus. We were supposed to go through the dog fence twice where we thought we would have to open and shut the gate, but to our disappointment there were no gates and we don’t really know exactly where it was. But we did see a dingo so we must have gone through the fence at some time!
There was some road work and a couple of trucks passed us going to Yunta but apart from that we only saw a drover on a bike moving some cattle along. I loved the country.
At Morro Creek we came upon a young couple bogged in the (dry) creek bed. They had tried to drive along the creek bed a bit so the girl could have a pee! They had been digging with their hands for 1½ hours when we came along. They were well and truly stuck and we would not have been able to help them so we called in to the Ranger station at Gammon Ranges NP, about 17km further on and he said he would go and help them.
We arrived at 4.45 and the shadows were lengthening on the road. Glad it wasn’t any later. This place is quite picturesque with rocky red hills all around. We have power, which surprised us. The cost of tours and the observatory is quite steep – $40 per person for 1½ hours viewing and $99 per person for the Ridge Top Tour which is 4½ hours.

11/5/06 Thursday – Arkaroola
A lovely cold, clear morning – good for doing nothing. We both felt very lazy this morning. I noticed that a tyre on the trailer was flat, so that gave John something to think about. We had an early lunch and fronted up for the Ridge Top Tour at 12.30. Saw Doug Sprigg about seeing the comet tomorrow morning at 5.00 a.m. He didn’t know anything about it but seemed quite keen.
The tour was excellent, the country extraordinarily rugged and the track mind blowing. Even more surprising were the number of disused tracks which were put in by Exon (?) for exploration purposes in days gone by. Wayne, our guide was a mine of information and has only been in the job for a few months. He could talk and wave his hand around while negotiating the most hair-raising climbs/descents. The view from Sillers Lookout was stunning, and from another we could see Lake Frome quite clearly. (Must checkout Eremophila Freelingia, which only grows in this area.) We took lots of photos but they can never capture the grandeur or the perspective of the real thing. Very memorable.
We met the couple who were bogged in the creek yesterday. At the time we could not figure out why they couldn’t get out by driving forward. After we left them John wondered if they had engaged 4WD. They hadn’t and as soon as they realised it they got themselves out.
It is not too cold tonight because there is no wind.

12/5/06 Friday – Arkaroola
John set the alarm for 4.45 this morning to view the comet with Doug Sprigg however there was slight high cloud and too much moon (it’s full moon tomorrow) so it was called off. He spent the morning changing the tyre, finding the leak, and pumping up both. This flattened the car battery so that had to be charged. While this was happening I did the washing. The switching mechanism is broken so you have to stay with it and make it do what you want manually. It takes forever to fill. After I’d finished Wayne (guide/electrician) came and fitted a new switch. Meanwhile John has taken the tyre down to be patched. It’s 11.30 a.m. and it’s a clear sunny day but with a very cold wind.
John made excellent scones for lunch after which we went to lovely Stubbs Waterhole where we pottered around for a while and then to a gorge nearby where we walked for a couple of kilometres – lovely country, ever changing. Picked up the tyre, refuelled, and went to Bolla Bollana to look for yellow footed rock wallabies. No luck. Went for a beer where Doug told us that the wallabies don’t like the cold and probably wouldn’t come down for a drink if it’s under about 18°.
I made a quick dinner and John went to the observatory and although it is full moon tomorrow he enjoyed the viewing.

13/5/06 Saturday – Coward Springs ($16)
I drove from Arkaroola to Copely where we had expected to find a general store open but it wasn’t. The drive was quite lovely with the red hills all around, gradually changing to undulating hills and a couple of stations and an Aboriginal community along the way. We continued to Lyndhurst, where the Strezlecki Track heads east. We bought water and chatted with the lady at the roadhouse. She said he father, who lives up the Strazlecki, entertained the GG last night. Said he was a nice man, easy to talk to. The next stop was Maree where we bought fuel and where the Birdsville Track goes off to the north and the Oodnadatta goes west. There was one of Kruse’s old mail trucks there rusting away. He was the ‘Mailman of the Birdsville’. We could see Lake Eyre South from the road – a huge expense of white and 12 metres below sea level.
We stayed the night at Coward Springs which was a station along the Ghan railway and is also in a mound springs conservation area. It was delightful. The owners have planted salt tolerant plants and made camp sites with vegetation separating each site, each with a fireplace, and firewood is supplied at a central point and you have to chop your own. We had very secluded spot – a bit of a walk to the loos. The loos were built from railway sleepers and were spotless dropdowns. There were also showers which had chip heaters. As night was rapidly falling we gave the showers a miss.
We were disappointed when our lights failed almost immediately after switching them on. The fridge had been running all day and draws too much.
We had not expected to come so far today.

14/5/06 Sunday – Oodnadatta – The Pink Roadhouse ($19.50)
We checked out the spa (from a natural spring) and also the old train driver’s cottage which the owners are restoring and have made into a little museum. The road was quite good as far as William Creek. We were able to travel up to 90KPH. The man at the Roadhouse said that the Oodnadatta Gymkhana was on and would be a good place for lunch. We were aiming for it but the road deteriorated markedly and travelling was much slower. We are staying the night here at Oodnadatta as there is nowhere else between here and Marla on the Stuart Highway, another 211 kms and also we have a powered site so can recharge the batteries. The caravan park is awful and I wonder what it will be like when the mob from the gymkhana comes in. We will try out the Roadhouse food tonight. We have been assured it’s quite good. We’ll see.
I had a shower as soon as we arrived and was so desperate I didn’t even mind that it was cold, even washed my hair. At least it was a warm afternoon but it’s cooling down fast – it’s 5.30.
We went to the Roadhouse for dinner and waited for a good half hour for our steak, chips and salad. I asked for medium rare steak: can’t imagine what it would have been like if I’d asked for it well done. At least it had some flavour and the chips and salad were good. Another cold night but at least we had power.

15/5/06 Monday – Erldunda – Desert Oaks Resort ($26)
Got away at about 9.00 and ended up here after realising that Marla was not an option as we were there at 12.00. Refuelled and stopped for lunch down the road – the roadhouse had nothing decent to buy so it was a cheese and lettuce sandwich again. We bypassed Kulgera and did the extra 75km to get here. It’s quite good but expensive. Don’t know how much traffic there will be tonight – so far there’s not too much and the generator is tolerable.
The Track was variable but mostly similar to yesterday, with gibber, loose gravel, some firm-based sand, etc. We travelled at between 60 and 80. The road definitely deteriorated after William Creek.
The scenery changes all along the way with jump-ups or low ranges in the distance and the vegetation varying from virtually nothing to saltbush to low mulga. Some of creeks although dry would provide good camp sites, with good shade. Within 50km of Marla it was markedly more fertile with some grass. The Stuart Highway is a good road but not quite as interesting as along the Track, although we did see a substantial range as we got closer to here.
It was a pleasantly coolish day, warmer here than further back, but is cold now.The flies were very bad here until it cooled down but now the moths are out in battalions.

16/5/06 Tuesday – Alice SpringsMacDonnell Range Holiday Park ($28.50)
We arrived here at 11.30 after good nights sleep and a fast run. This place is huge and well maintained. Our site is next but one to the amenities, laundry and excellent camp kitchen. We didn’t do much, just lazed around and went into town for a wander around and some shopping mid afternoon. There are a couple of school groups in very close behind us and when they came back from their outing they took over the showers and toilets and also the laundry, where they liked to congregate while they charged their mobile phones, only to flatten the battery with silly talk then plug them in and start all over again. At least they settled down at a reasonable hour. A bit worrying as I heard a teacher say something about getting up at 4.30!

17/5/06 Wednesday – Alice
Sure enough, the noise started at around 4.30. Then the bus started at 6.00 and they finally left at 6.30. The have gone for good. Many people were not impressed as we are paying top dollar here and shouldn’t have to put up with that. I don’t even think it can be very profitable because today I notice that the place seems to be full, so they don’t have to rely on groups and it creates bad feeling.
Today we went to the Araluen Centre which is part of a complex consisting of an Aboriginal art gallery, gift shop, the Strehelow Research Centre (museum of geology, fossils, stuffed animals, skeletons, etc. – excellent), the Kookaburra wreck, an aviation museum, and a cemetery. We had lunch there and a very interesting and thought provoking time. I could not bring myself to visit Albert Namatjira’s grave, knowing what was done to him and is still being done to all the First Peoples of this land. Their lives are in tatters and many have no pride in themselves at all.
We booked to go to Chambers Pillar and Rainbow Valley on a tour on Friday. We thought about it and decided that it would probably be reasonable value as the fuel would cost about $100 for us to do it ourselves. It costs $148 each.
There was a bush poet on tonight but we could hear him quite well from the trailer so didn’t bother to go up. He was good, but not much poetry, mostly songs we know.

18/5/06 Thursday – Alice
Today was the Desert Park. We left at 9.30 to be in time for the birds of prey show at 10.00. It was very good with a Barn Owl appearing from the hole in a dead tree and flying all around and coming to perch in the shelter we were in, then a Hobby (?) that looked like a small version of a Wedge Tail Eagle, another very fast, smaller bird and then a Wedge Tail Eagle, which interacted with two others that came down from the range we were facing. It was very interesting and entertaining especially when the birds flew so close to us. It was possibly not as good as the one at Taronga Park and maybe too much information.
We spent the rest of the day there seeing the nocturnal house, several aviaries and a wonderful talk on bush medicines and the way of life of the Central Australian Aborigines given by an Aboriginal man. We ended the day with a DVD which was not very focused but ended dramatically by slowly dropping the screen to reveal the wonderful range behind the park through a huge glass window.
Need to prepare for tomorrow’s trip to Chambers Pillar and Rainbow Valley. We leave at 7.00.
Some cloud built during the day. Hope it disappears overnight. Another lovely day but sleeves required all day. A cold night last night – the beanie came in handy.

19/5/06 Friday – Alice
Arose at 6.00 to prepare for Chambers Pillar and Rainbow Valley at 7.00. We were a bit surprised to be met by Trevor of a different company than the one we booked. However, although his vehicle was a bit rattly we set off with another couple, first stop Ewaninga rock carvings which densely covered the red rocks. No explanations available. We then rattled on to Maryvale Station where we had some morning tea. We next headed for an Aboriginal settlement close by to view art work but they are closed on Fridays. It was then on to Chambers Pillar with wonderful views along the way.
The Pillar is on a large base which has steps up to the base of the Pillar itself. It is quite a spectacle and the country around also has many strange shaped monoliths. The road in was very rough with many sandhills to negotiate in the last section. Glad we didn’t try it in the Xtrail.
After a very nice salad lunch we set off along station tracks to the road that runs along beside the railway line. In fact we crossed the railway line and then headed for Rainbow Valley. We had afternoon tea and went for a walk up to the wonderfully coloured breadknife like rock coloured red and white and then waited for sunset to see the colours glow in the fading light before hightailing it out for the highway and back to Alice. All did not go smoothly. The lights on the vehicle started flickering before reaching the highway and died altogether soon after. We drove well over 70km with no lights. John put his arm out the window and used his headlamp to light up the edge of the road and we had to pull over every time a vehicle approached from either direction until they passed. We finally made it and Trevor took us to his place and drove us in relays back to the caravan park in his wife’s, tiny car. It was a great day but we were exhausted when we got back around 8.30pm.

20/5/06 Saturday – Alice
We went to the Olive Pink Botanical Gardens, which I enjoyed very much, seeing mainly a variety of Acacias and Eucalypts native to Central Australia. Olive Pink was a singular lady who lived to a great age and was a champion for Aboriginal rights and for plants of this region. She was also a botanical artist. She was not a person to cross.
In the afternoon we went to the Royal Flying Doctor Service base to hear about how the service works. This central region covers 1.2 million square kilometres. Had afternoon tea there.

21/5/06 Sunday – Alice
Today we went to Standley Chasm and climbed to the far end of the chasm – a bit rough. Then we waited until noon when the sun lit the walls of the chasm and created quite a display of colour. We then headed off to Palm Valley as a last minute decision realising that this would cover the Larapinta section of the West Macs and we can cover Namatjira Drive through to Kings Canyon when we return from the East Macs. It was an incredibly beautiful drive with the dark red, spinifex covered range all around us with the occasional ghost gum clinging for life high up the cliffs. The road mostly was the Finke River bed, very rough, sandy and stony in turn. We made it to within 1.6km where we left the car and walked the rest of the way. We really didn’t get right into the valley because it was another kilometre or so on from the end of the road but we saw the cycad canyon and enough palms to make me happy. What a fantastic trip, so glad we did it.

22/5/06 Monday – Alice
At 2.30 this morning there were very fine sprinkles of rain which increased to drizzle by 6.00. We elected to stay another day here rather than leave tomorrow, i.e. leave Wednesday. This allows us to get our act together better and to get the tent dry before leaving for East Macs.
The weather cleared by evening and the day was spent on maintenance on the trailer etc. and some shopping and checking.
Made a big casserole which will give us two frozen meals as well as tonight’s dinner.
We have been commiserating with a lady from Canada who bought an old Volvo wagon in Melbourne and has had endless trouble every since. It has held her up for a week in Melbourne, a week in Canberra and now here. She took it to the service place where the woman who sold it had had all her work done on it and he gave it a clean bill. Some people are rats.

23/5/06 Tuesday – Alice
It was a cold night last night and a cold day all day today even though the sun was shining brightly in a cloudless sky.
We went to Simpsons Gap this morning. It was very peaceful, with high red rocky walls and a narrow passage with water. There was a variety of flora including a patch of rushes in a small pond about 100 m in front of the gap. We saw black footed rock wallabies even though it was about 11.30. There are a couple of walks, we did one and saw a beautiful ghost gum 33m tall. It’s rare for trees to be much more than 10m around here. I became very frustrated at not having any reference material for plants so bought a book ‘Bushfires and Bushtucker’ which is written by the head botanist at the Desert Park. I hope it helps me identify things I see or have seen.
We went to the Telegraph Station but only John went in and he found it interesting.
John is now at the stargazing night again (every Tuesday) here in the c’van park
We are heading off to the East Macs tomorrow. I have enjoyed my time here in Alice.

24/5/06 Wednesday – Trephina Gorge ($3.30pppn)
Got away from Alice around 9.30 and looked at Emily and Jessie Gorges on our way to Trephina. Both were attractive sites with water holes and we saw black footed rock wallabies at Jessie and there were also rock paintings at both places but particularly at Emily.
We also stopped at Corroboree Rock along the way and went for a walk around it. Just an interesting lump of rock separate from the ranges around it. We could see through two holes in the rock. I continue to be fascinated by the flora. The ghost gums are quite beautiful growing out of the crannies in the rock high up the great red cliffs, their white trunks and green branches a wonderful contrast.
We are at the main camp ground, which is the furthest in, close to the gorge. Our site is quite large and there are gas bbqs and rings and a good fire pit virtually on our site. John set up the shower tent this afternoon and even got water heated enough for a shower. The flies were terrible but went away as soon as it cooled down – which it did quickly and thoroughly. It became bitterly cold and we searched for something else to put on. The stars were unbelievable.

25/5/06 Thursday – Trephina
After a very cold night (we were warm in bed) and morning it quickly warmed up to a lovely warm day. We chatted with an Austrian couple for a while then went to Ross Homestead to ring the Nissan place about the recall Michele told us about, but there was no hurry to get the job done. Then we went to N’Dhala Gorge and went for a walk there. I was a little disappointed as I expected water but it was dry – we are getting spoilt. There were lots of rock carvings. We then set out along the Explorers Way back the long way to the Ross Highway and back to Trephina. Some more great scenery.
Tonight is not nearly as cold. We had our showers before the sun went down just in case it was going to get cold. John made a great fire and cooked the steak and we sat around the fire until it went out – very pleasant.

26/5/06 Friday – Trephina
We ate breakfast outside, just beating the flies. Did some washing in the ‘machine’ and then went for a walk on the rim of the gorge. Up and down and up and down, very rocky and with great views of the surrounding range and into the wide sandy floor of the creek. Home for lunch and then an attempt to reach John Hayes Rockhole but turned back after less than 1km – not enough clearance. Collected firewood for tonight and came back and read before our showers. Another lovely fire. A very mild night.

27/5/06 Saturday – Trephina
The night turned cold around 3.00am and today was cool and breezy. We went to Arltunga, the site of a gold rush about 1886 and petered out about 1913. There were many sites to visit, government workers houses, stampers, boilers, police station, cemeteries, etc. We enjoyed the day and were amazed that people ever found the place let alone survived here for years. There is just no water – how did they manage, especially when water was required for the machinery (boilers) as well as for daily life. A system for blowing air through the puddlers was developed instead of using water but much gold was lost with this method.
The road out was quite rough and corrugated – we’ve both had enough off being shaken around – must be getting old! The scenery, once again was red and rugged and I photographed some wildflowers and got thoroughly confused with the corkwoods, i.e. which is which.
By the time we got back the wind was quite wild and things covered in dust back at camp – thank goodness for my kitchen cover. It was difficult keeping the stove alight to cook dinner. We need a decent shield. The gas had blown out in the fridge and the freezer had started to melt – just made it in time.

28/5/06 Sunday – Alice SpringsMacDonnell Range Holiday Park ($28.50)
Packed up and left Trephina around 9.00. Ran out of petrol (more or less deliberately, to see what was going on with the fuel tank), put a can in and booked in to the c’van park by 11.00, one site down from our previous one.
Our neighbour is a friendly fellow in a wheelchair – has his van modified to lift his chair in, well set up. The neighbours were cooking roast lamb in a Cobb and it smelt so delicious that we bought a half leg of lamb, some spuds, pumpkin and beans and came back and cooked it in the frypan – excellent. We did lots of shopping ready for the West Macs and Uluru. We actually have enough food to get us home I think.
We got some information about Ormiston Gorge and Redbank Gorge that may be useful. Only 13 sites at Ormiston and filled before lunchtime. It sounds as if Redbank is set up like Trephina, which would be fine if Ormiston is full.

29/5/06 Monday – Alice
Did more washing and organising and final shopping for the West Macs, Kings Canyon and Uluru. Went to Olive Pink again, briefly.
30/5/06 Tuesday – Ormiston Gorge ($6.60 pppn)
We left Alice soon after 8.00 (I think) and made a bee line for Ormiston because we had heard that you need to be there before 10.00 to get a site. We were here by about 9.40 and two people were packing up. We had to wait for a while but got the best site here. There are only about 13 but there are gas bbqs and rings, flushing toilets and solar showers. Some people are rich, they come in, don’t pay, have a leisurely shower and go and there is not enough hot water for those who are staying and paying.
This place is heaven. The gorge is spectacular and just a couple of minutes walk away from the camp site. We climbed to Ghost Gum lookout and did the loop, coming down well up the gorge. It was a bit of a scramble over rocks to get right down and through the gorge, but very beautiful. For some time we watched a black footed rock wallaby making his way up the gorge wall as light footed as a ballet dancer. A lovely place to just sit and look around you. There is a string of waterholes, some quite deep and with plenty of fish. We noticed quite a lot of dead fish in one waterhole: it’s caused by a disease, not lack of oxygen in the water.
We had a good dinner, including stewed apples and cream for desert and watched the stars before retiring to the tent. It’s very quiet here. It’s only 8.00 but the dingos are already howling.

31/5/06 Wednesday – Ormiston
We took lunch and went back up the road to see Ellery Creek Big Hole where we did the Dolomite walk. It was not very inspiring but pleasant enough, and then looked at the beautiful very large waterhole, as always, with the ramparts of the gorge towering above and a narrow gap through. The next stop was Serpentine Gorge with approx 1.5km walk to the gorge. It was very shaded and quite small, but lovely all the same. There was a walk to the top on the right hand side but it looked very steep and stony so we gave it a miss – anyway, I was hungry! Lunch was not too bigger battle with the flies.

At least we get two meals a day when flies are not a problem. Breakfast is too cold for them and I can start preparing dinner around 5.30 when it’s cooling down quickly and the flies are gone and then it only takes a few minutes to cook the kind of food we’ve been having, which is often chicken or beef stir fried with a couple of vegetables and a meal base. The meal bases are quite good and varied, from French creamy and herbs style to more Asian style. We have it with rice, noodles or potatoes and extra fresh vegetables. I also carry different kinds of pasta, cous cous, Deb (which we haven’t used yet) and tinned tomatoes (lots), mushrooms, potatoes, baby corn, pineapple, coconut milk, etc. and dried soups to use as a base for other casserole type dishes. I also carry some herbs and spices, sesame oil, sherry vinegar, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and sweet chilli sauce. Fruit and vegetables keep very well in the esky with just one ice block (which gets exchanged for a newly frozen one each day). The green veges and tomatoes are kept in a large plastic box with a drain rack in the bottom. The important thing is to make sure everything is sound and dry before storing. Some things last two or three weeks. We eat well.

The Ochre Pits was the next stop. It has a paved walk from the car park to the pits. It was much more extensive than I had expected. There are several ‘walls’ that have been eroded away which provide ochre of red, white and yellow, each used for different purposes. Red is for the most sacred ceremonies, e.g. initiation. White is used for women’s ceremonies, but not exclusively. Yellow doesn’t seem to have any special significance. It is men’s responsibility to get ochre and to make sure women always have enough for their ceremonies. It’s like an ancient Roxby Downs or Broken Hill – highly prized and very tradeable.
We then bypassed Ormiston to go to Glen Helen. I wanted to see for myself that they had fuel and not worry about it all night! When we arrived we met Trevor (Chambers Pillar), who just pulled in with the people he had taken out to Yuendemu. He looked filthy, said the trip had gone well. John asked if he had resolved the problem with the lights and he said no. I can’t believe he took paying passengers out without having functioning lights even though he would have been fairly certain that he wouldn’t need them. I could see he was anxious to get away from Glen Helen and reach Alice before dark but his passengers were fiddling around.
We didn’t go down to the gorge, had a beer instead! And, yes there was fuel ($1.70+ per L).
There was a ranger talk from 7-8 on the flora and fauna of Ormiston which was well attended. Peter (the ranger) showed some great slides many of which he had taken himself – snakes, rock wallabies, lizards, small antechinus, and dingos, nearly all of which are abundant in the park except antechinus and brush tailed possums, which are seriously endangered.

1 June 06 Thursday – Ormiston
Today we decided to do the 7km Pound walk. It was cool and cloudy, a good day for it. We climbed and went down and up again until we came to a saddle with a bit of a walk up to a lookout. The view of the pound was spectacular – all laid out before us. It was then down into the pound floor, which was not as flat as it looked from up on top. It became sandy and then rocky as we neared the gorge. The going was rough. Eventually I tripped on a tree stump and cracked my shin on a rock. It didn’t feel too bad and was not bothering me although I was well aware of it. Quite a lot more rock hopping later we cleared the gorge and dawdled home chatting to other people as we went. My leg got worse as the afternoon wore on even though I put it up and put a packed of frozen peas on it. By dinner time I really thought it was something serious and at times it was excruciating. John had to half carry me to the toilet.

2/6/06 Friday – Ormiston
John awoke this morning with a sexy voice and a cough. This morning my leg was much better but I stayed in camp while John went out to see some sights. He went to Tylers Pass which afforded excellent views all around for a great distance, including Gosse Bluff. He says we must go there on another trip. Redbank Gorge had a rocky walk in and he was reminded of the danger of walking alone. Another pretty gorge where you could do some paddling except for the rough 20 minute walk in. He also went to Glen Helen Gorge which also had a very large waterhole – permanent water. Almost expected to see palms and cycads there.
I had a shower this afternoon and felt much better for it.
This evening there was a ranger talk on at the visitor centre across the road and John went but I stayed behind – a bit far to walk. I went to the amenities and as I came back I saw a dingo in the camp. He was very cheeky and didn’t go away despite my waving and shooing. He went into every camp but seemed afraid of the light we had and didn’t come near. All the same I felt uneasy and took the food boxes
3/6/06 Saturday – Curtin Springs (Free)
We packed up early and got away from Ormiston around 8 or so and headed for Alice en route the long way to Uluru. Decided not to do Mereenie Loop as it is reported to be very rough and I don’t think I could stand it with my bad leg. John doesn’t seem too bad but still has a cough. We stopped briefly to get a few things in Woolies There were good views of Mount Connor along the way. We were fairly certain we wouldn’t make it to Uluru before dark so stopped at Curtin Springs (Mount Connor is on their property). I had been told that it was ‘delightful’. We missed out on the last powered site which was probably not so bad as of course there was a generator banging away and so we parked as far away as we could so it was a very long walk to the loos. We figured that we could just ‘step outside’ if necessary in the middle of the night. We ate at the restaurant – basically beef steak or camel steak or hamburgers or camel burgers – we opted for the beef steak. Everyone sat at a communal table and the talk was interesting. One couple and their daughter had driven 150km over shocking roads to have a night out (staying overnight). They were the store managers at an Aboriginal mission in SA and this was the closest place to them. Yippee! What a night out! They couldn’t understand why anyone would want to see Uluru a second time “It’s just a rock!” No soul. Also present at the table was a couple who had booked everything from go to whoa and were staying in the cabin section. No room for a change of mind and they drove the 86km each way to Uluru twice to save the cost of accommodation there. Can’t add up. Then there was the artist who claimed she would be the artist in residence at Sails in the Desert in a couple of months time. I wonder.
I sincerely hope that this is our last night without power. Whilst it has been wonderful being out in the NPs I have had enough of being cold and look forward to having our cosy little heater available wherever I feel like it. Once again, I piled all the clothes on including beanie and gloves.

4/6/06 Sunday – Ayers Rock Resort Camp Ground ($31)
We had a very good night’s sleep and although only 3degrees this morning, didn’t feel cold last night, in fact peeled off some of the clothes. After a reasonably leisurely breakfast we headed off to Uluru and had a thrill to see the rock rise out of the desert over to our left.
We are happy with our site, it’s not too far from amenities and we don’t have anyone behind us.
After doing the washing and lunch we went into the park and spent quite a while at the Cultural Centre before driving around the rock. Also had a look around the shopping centre before returning to camp to relax before a shower and dinner. It’s nice having the heater even though it’s not very cold.

5/6/06 Monday – Ayers Rock
Today we walked around the base of the rock. It’s 9.5km but flat and easy going. It really makes you realise how big it is when you see a feature and think you’ll be beneath it in a few minutes but it doesn’t seem to get any closer. We sat on a rock and had lunch but didn’t sit too long as it was cold in the light breeze. As we got nearer the climb site we could see tiny figures silhouetted against the sky. As we walked by where the chain was I noticed a person seemed to be crouched down maybe untangling something from the chain. When we drove by having finished the walk, that same person was now on all fours below the chain literally inching their way down. Must have been terrified.
My leg was fine, no problems at all. It is now anything from red to black, right down into the foot, is tender to touch but otherwise functioning well. I should be right for the Kings Canyon walk.
We had a cup of coffee at the Cultural Centre then had a look at Kata Tjuta again but didn’t walk there. What a fantastic place.

6/6/06 Tuesday – Ayers Rock
We had a lay day today. Did two loads of washing, tidied up, John made scones for lunch then we went to town to check out the supermarket. Got a few bits and filled up with petrol. Yalara changed to Opal fuel this week. Went up to the lookout in the camping area to see the sunset on Uluru. The colours certainly do change.

7/6/06 Wednesday – Kings Canyon Resort ($87 for 3 nights)
Packed up and were about to leave Yalara when our next door neighbour came to chat. It’s always the way as you’re trying to get away but we don’t mind because you meet some interesting folk and often pick up good info. An easy drive to here but we started to splutter about 20km from here with only 275km on the clock so stopped and put the 20L in. What a pain, and it’s a worry because we don’t know whether it might conk out after only 200. It’s a long way home. We only have one jerry can now after the metal one sprang a leak and the replacement wouldn’t fit in the holder.
We booked into this place on Monday for 3 nights. When we arrived things seemed very confused and the receptionist said we were booked for 2 nights. I heard John book for 3 and he said it twice. We were given a site number and when we found it there was someone else there. The man had been booked in another site and there was someone else there so he went to the office and was given the same number we had. I saw cleaners in the toilets and asked if they had any communication with the office, which they did. After telling the office there was a lady here who was very upset about something the head of Housekeeping came flying down in her car. She was very nice and we all had a laugh and eventually got things sorted out. We are on a huge site with a lovely view and I was expecting everyone who drove by to demand we give it up. So far so good. Their booking system is a shambles, not comptuerised. We heard a number of people say that they had tried to book but were told they could not. I told them to get on the phone and demand a booking. It seemed to depend on who you got on the other end.
Just went for a little walk around here this afternoon and got talking to the people next door (we had passed the time of day with them at Yalara). They are very nice, interesting people and have been around a lot they are keen for us to call on them when we are next up there.
There are lots of dingos here. We saw about five while we were preparing dinner.
It was cold around sunset but then warmed up a bit, as it does most days, and we were able to eat outside. Chatted to the neighbours as we cooked, ate and washed up.

8/6/06 Thursday – Kings Canyon Resort
Reluctantly got out of bed, so cosy. Awoke at 12.30 last night, didn’t know whether I wanted to go to the loo or what. I was cold so turned the heater on and left it on all night – have never done that before.
Went to the canyon for the rim walk at about 10.00. It was a long climb up the rock steps and then easy going for a while. Little pockets of plants and trees, including Macrozamia macdonnellii, Eromophilla, Thryptomene and something that looks a bit like samphire, were flourishing in protected areas. The rock which, appears to be flattish pieces all stacked on top of each other is all sandstone with a very thin oxidised coating. They formed natural steps for large parts of the walk. There was much up and down, sometimes on the natural rock and sometimes on very steep wooden stairways. There were also some bridges. Although only 7.5km it was not an easy walk because of the steepness and the terrain. Sometimes the arrows pointing the way appeared to point right over a cliff but when you got there you’d find steps going down. Sometimes it was a bit scary but it would have to be one of the most wonderful walks I have done. The sheer walls of the canyon were quite a sight, as if a giant masonry saw had sliced them smooth.
We were both quite tired when we finished and drove back to the resort but got sidetracked with the new road of the Mereenie Loop. Don’t know how far the new part goes but maybe it is the start of the bituminising of the whole road through to Hermannsberg.
I finished my Tim Winton book and stared into space for a while before having my shower then joined the neighbours for a chat and drink. Hope we sleep tight tonight.

9/6/06 Friday – Kings Canyon Resort
The morning was lovely and warm once the sun gained strength and we would have had breakfast outside had it not been for the noisy miners which drive us mad when we have food, they even try to take it from your mouth. The crested pigeons are a different matter. They are all over the place but they just potter around finding what they can and cuddling up to each other every now and again. Then there are the pied butcher birds with their nasty looking hooked beaks that come around when there’s food but it’s only one pair and they are not too bad. They make up for their nuisance factor by having such a beautiful call.
We drove to Kathleen Springs where John went for a walk. I stayed in the car because my leg is swollen and uncomfortable today after yesterday’s walk. John took some photos of plants for me, including nardoo by the waterhole.
John made griddle cakes (thick pancakes) for lunch – very good. Then he went to the shop and bought ice creams. About this time the space behind, next to behind and beside us filled up. Next to us are John and Helen from Ayers Rock. Behind them are people they met at Ayers Rock so it was like an old friends reunion. We spent the rest of the afternoon reading and talking to John and Helen. They have an Ultimate and have their Pajero very well set up with drawers and two big lockable boxes which are bolted in after the back seats are removed. Their set up must have cost a bomb but has given us some ideas to work with.

10/6/06 Saturday – Marla Travellers Rest ($17.00)
We were a bit concerned about the fuel situation when we left this morning but filled at Mt Ebenezer and Kulgera and all was well. We made good time and arrived here at 2.50pm. We have a powered site and the facilities look surprisingly good. We will eat in the roadhouse tonight.
Some people with a new Aussie Swag came over to chat. They have a Rover model and are on their first major trip. Every time we see one we get ideas things we might do to improve our travelling setup but basically we are very happy with what we’ve got. Making improvements is often a trade off between extra comfort or efficiency in one direction and extra weight in another.
When we stopped at Kulgera we nearly died with the cold. It was very busy, with many people obviously headed for either Alice or Finke for the Desert Race being held this weekend. The preliminaries were conducted today, i.e. time trials etc. and there is great excitement about the main race from Alice to Finke tomorrow and then returning to Alice on Monday. We have seen vehicles loaded with firewood for their camp fires tonight – and by golly they’ll need them! Thank heavens we have power tonight.

11/6/06 Sunday – Coober PedyStuart Range Caravan Park ($22)
Marla Travellers Rest was quite a pleasant surprise. Very modern clean amenities. We met some people from Braidwood, Richard and Leonie (the Aussie Swag people) who we finished up having dinner with in roadhouse. We had plenty of time to chat because we waited 1½ hours for our order. The next morning Richard asked for our email address and suggested that we may like to go camping together in the Deua NP for a couple of days. Nice people. Richard convinced us to become ExplorOz members.
We didn’t do much today. This place is amazing but certainly not inviting. We are going on a tour tomorrow so will not bother checking out too much on our own. A pathetic attitude but we’re quite worn out, mainly by the cold, and worried about things closer to home. Just went to the supermarket and drove around a bit. This caravan park is very good (but 20 cents in the slot for a 3 minute hot shower – I don’t mind) and even has a pizzeria attached.
12/6/06 Monday (public hol) – Coober Pedy
The tour this afternoon was quite good although I found it hard to hear Jimmy, our guide, as he had a thick Greek accent even thought he’s been here for about 40 years and we were travelling over corrugated road for much of the time. We went all over the place including through the mining area (and saw the holes all over the place – no wonder anyone without a licence is not permitted in the claim areas), the Breakaways, spectacular landscape left from when the Eromangan Sea receded, the Dog Fence, and the strange landscape between there and town. We also went into a dugout house and mine and then to the Serbian church. All very memorable. Hope the photos come out. We then had pizza with a bottle of wine when we returned.

13/6/06 Tuesday – Wilmington – Beautiful Valley Caravan Park ($19)
We left Coober Pedy around 9.00. The drive was quite boring for a good deal of the way but after Woomera (a dead town – manicured lawns but dead) it became more interesting with salt lakes and, as we neared Port Augusta, the beautiful Flinders Ranges to our left. We decided to stay in Wilmington rather than PA because of security and it’s just another big town. The caravan park here is a long walk from the pub which is the only place for a meal so it meant unhitching. We had a good meal sitting at the bar (smokers up the other end) and chatting to some other travellers and a fencer on the dog fence – the people you meet!

14/6/06 Wednesday – Mildura – All Seasons Holiday Park ($23)
It was a very cold night again last night. We are trying to pull as little as possible out eg. kitchen, so the mornings are a bit awkward as John tries to get breakfast with no table. It was a strange c’van park as the ladies showers were not very good but the men’s were and the hand basins in the men’s had one faucet in the basins but the ladies had two so you couldn’t have warm water, you either had too hot or too cold. Also you had to pay $1 to use the camp kitchen – what a cheek!
The trip here was quite lovely – a very similar drive, slightly different roads to the way we came back last time from Port Augusta to Renmark. Very little traffic. Stopped in Renmark for lunch at the same place by the river that we’ve stopped at a couple of times before. Reached here when schools were coming out. The traffic in this place is bad. We are on the Calder Hwy which is not very sensible. We went immediately to Target to get a new heater because the old one conked out yesterday and John did some running repairs but we weren’t going to risk not having a heater tonight. The new one is rather noisy and not as good as the other one (made in China, of course).
We were able to walk to the tavern for dinner which was good.
My leg started to bleed very black blood in the shower and I was able to ease a lot more out and put a dressing on.
Now to see if we can sleep through the trucks, cars, motor bikes and backfires.
Mildura had its coldest May on record and I think June is shaping up the same way.

15/6/06 Thursday – Wagga Wagga – Wagga Beach Caravan Park (17)
Another cold, cold morning with a beautiful pattern of ice crystals on the car window. The camp kitchen nearby came in handy for breakfast.
The drive was mildly interesting. We stopped at ‘Shear Outback’ at Hay for a picnic lunch. One day we’ll actually go in that place to have a look. There were lots of emus in the paddocks all the way almost to Wagga.
We walked uptown for dinner and ate at the Victoria Hotel bistro. I had a perfectly cooked porterhouse. We should come for a holiday in these parts, probably including the Murray River country.
This caravan park is in town and quiet. It has the best amenities we have ever encountered. You could not possibly get clothes or floor wet outside the shower – wonderful!
My leg started to bleed in the shower again and huge amounts of lumpy blood came out. It is now flat instead of having a big lump. It also has a rather frightening hole in it – will have it looked at asap.

16/6/06 Friday – Home Sweet Home – Free and warm!
We had breakfast at a very good coffee shop in Wagga and were home by noon. I rang for an appointment to see the doctor as soon as we got in. I have an ulcer on my leg and he cleaned it out and gave me antibiotics and said to bathe it in salt water, keep it covered and raised and come back next week. It took several weeks of careful attention to heal.

The lesson learned is: get things looked at by a professional as early as possible especially when camping. Should have seen a doctor in Alice before going to Kings Canyon. The interesting thing is when I fell in Ormiston Gorge I didn’t even break the skin as I had long pants on.

The problem with the petrol tank was that the XTrail has a double tank and fuel was not pumping from one section to the other. Despite several attempts Nissan was not able to fix it. It was quite a dangerous problem because we never knew how far we could get before it would stop. We now have a Prado.
John 'n' Min
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