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Published: September 11th 2016
Saturday 27th August 2016
We left Uluru this morning; we headed for Alice Springs, Mark and Helena to Kings Canyon. Mark and Helena want to drive the dirt road between Kings Canyon and Alice (The Mareenie Loop) and as we couldn't consider dragging our caravan over this we've decided to continue directly to Alice on the bitumen road, having been to King's Canyon in the past. We did meet up for morning coffee at a rest stop about 150kms up the road, before the others took the side road to the Gorge and we headed on to Erldunda, the turn-off northwards.
Here we had lunch and set off up the Stuart Highway until we reached the Finke River crossing, about 120kms before Alice Springs. Several other vans were already there and we joined them on a flat reserve adjoining the road. We decided to stay here overnight, before driving into Alice tomorrow morning.
The rest of the afternoon was spent working and catching up with our writing, preceded by a short walk up the stony riverbed to a few pools of water. The few head of cattle we saw had churned
this area up, so it didn’t take much to decide to return. Sunday 28th August 2016
We were on the road by 0730, probably the earliest on this trip! We arrived in Alice at about 0900. Judy did some research on caravan parks as we drove in and we decided on the Wintersun Park as it was right in town, was a park of the Top Tourist group of which we were members, and didn’t have all the unneeded extras such as adventure playgrounds and bouncing mats (making it a little cheaper and more likely to be kidfree!).
A large, quiet spot was given to us and soon after we were set up we drove into the centre of the town as there was a street market and food stalls in the main street. These were similar to the ones seen in many different towns but enjoyable non the less. In her usual way Judy filled in the time before lunch perusing each and every stall, although nothing was purchased until lunch. A delicious lunch of curries was had sitting on a street corner in the shade watching
Standley Chasm hosts a large cycad colony and some are estimated to be about 500-1000 years old!
the world go by. Monday 29th August 2016
We had a most enjoyable day today, setting off in the morning with a cut lunch and drinks, to see a few of the sights out of town.
We drove twenty-four kilometres west of Alice along Namatjira Drive to the West Macdonnell Ranges before we came to Simpsons Gap. Here, a group of people had just started an organised walk with 2 rangers. We were welcomed in and joined for the 30-minute session. We learned more about some of the flora and fauna here, Judy keeping both the indigenous trainee and the ranger on their toes with many pertinent questions. The ranger seemed pleased at this interaction as the others were a little quiet, and went out of his way to point out different things.
We saw tree coconuts on the river gums, where a worm attacks the tree, a white mucous forms around it and this has a hard casing around it. Both the worm and the white material around it are very tasty apparently, but we didn’t try it as they were too high up
(or perhaps another reason)!
The highlight of the walk was the spotting of rock wallabies on the rocks on the other side of the dry river. At first it was very difficult to spot them, but as you became accustomed to them more and more were seen. We enjoyed watching a couple of the males chase each other and spar a little.
Buffel grass has become a curse in national parks as it chokes out much of the native vegetation. When burnt, the buffel regrows very quickly, the spinifex may take up to 10 years to regrow to the size it was before burning. The area near the Gap is now clear of buffel grass, the ranger and a crew of new rangers having spent the previous weekend pulling it out.
A further 27kms on we came to Standley Chasm, a much photographed gap in the ranges. This area is not in the national park, instead it is owned by the indigenous people and run as a tourist site. We were a little taken back that we had to pay $10 each to enter the site, although to be fair, a new path
Aboriginal art at Jessie Gap
These places are associated with aboriginal story lines about caterpillars and emus.
with excellent access had been built. There was a café and gift shop at the entrance run but no local people were in sight.
The main walk is a scenic walk through a rocky, shaded gorge. The rare MacDonnell Ranges Cycads are common in this special, sheltered gorge - apparently they are very old.. Unfortunately for us, even though we were there at about midday, the light in the chasm was not there as clouds had covered the sun. On the way back we took a detour where the Larapinta Trail took off up the hill. It was quite steep but afforded us some super views.
When we returned to the start of the kiosk at the start of the track we also did a longer walk that lead westwards from the left of the Kiosk. This walk climbed up a valley and finished on a saddle allowing spectacular views of valleys, creeklines and mountains off to the west. We returned along a creekbed and the road in, which was part of the famous Larapinta Trail
Shopping was on our list when we returned to town, and as they have a Coles and Woolworths here
we had no problems in restocking our supplies. Young, and a few older, indigenous people were all over the centre, groups of them walking in and out of the parking area seemingly looking for unlocked vehicles. It did make us feel a little uncomfortable.
There was a highly visible police presence there, both on the road and in the shopping mall. Every liquor outlet now has an officer stationed either inside or outside the door to reduce any poor behaviour. This became law here at the beginning of the year. Tuesday 30th August 2016
The patter of rain on the caravan roof woke us this morning; unbelievable after yesterday’s fine weather. And so the rain continued, all day with little break. Rags did take the opportunity to wash down a couple of sides of the van (no washing allowed in the park) and he got soaked for the effort.
The day was spent getting the blog up to date; sorting the 100s of photos we have taken into a usable format, as well as Judy doing her uni work. It ended being a useful day off, but
we hope the weather improves tomorrow.
We have had no contact with Mark and Helena since they diverted to Kings Canyon, so we believe they will stay out another night before rejoining us. Wednesday 31st August 2016
A phonecall from Mark this morning told us that they were “stuck” in Ormiston Gorge, 135 kms west of Alice, and that they wouldn’t see us until tomorrow afternoon. Good to know that they were ok, it will be interesting to hear of their exploits.
We headed out east along the Ross Highway for the day, visiting Emily Gap, Jessie Gap, Corroboree Rock and Trephina Gorge before reaching the final destination Ross River Resort.
Emily and Jessie Gaps were just that, gaps in the East MacDonnell Range. These gaps would have rivers of water flowing through them after heavy rains but were mostly dry when we saw them. This didn’t make them any less spectacular; the openings had the red rocks towering on either side. As we walked into Jessies Gap reserve Judy noticed a bird amongst the wild fig trees. On checking it out
we found a Bower bird and his bower, with green glass, bottle tops and green figs in and around it, and the female bird he was trying to attract was nearby. He was doing a dance and singing to his female so didn't notice us at first and we were able to get quite close so that we could take photos.. Fascinating!
Corroboree Rock was a large rock in a valley with lush vegetation around it due to more water run-off from the hills around it. The area is considered sacred by the traditional owners and is fenced off to prevent it being climbed.
Trephina Gorge was probably the highlight of the day’s walks. This deep gorge had steep sheer quartzite cliff faces on both sides of the river red gum lined river bed. There are several walks here and we chose the rim walk. We walked up and along the rim of the gorge for some distance before the track led us down to the sand below. The views from the rim top and down below were well worth the climb and walk.
We had only intended a short drive
today with lunch in town, but we had enjoyed ourselves so much that it was now 1400 hrs. We drove to Ross River Resort, a property at the end of Ross Hwy, and the manager there told us lunch was off, but then cheerfully offered to cook us some wedges. We jumped at the offer and sat down to a big plate of wedges with self-made plunger coffee, the ingredients supplied by them. Great way to end the day.
We met a couple from Victoria, Clive and Peg, at Jessie Gap and kept on bumping into them during the day. They too are at the same caravan park as us, so we had them over for ‘sundowner’ drinks. Peg shared a microwave fruit cake recipe with Judy which she vows to try tomorrow.
Rain is forecast again for tomorrow, the drizzle starting at 2100 hrs. Thursday 1st September 2016
The first day of Spring wasn’t as bright and sunny as could be expected here in Alice Springs but even so, it wasn’t cold. A bit of rain did fall during the day and it got quite chilly
late in the afternoon. We had an early start as we had to get the car to Kmart Auto by 0800hrs for a service.
After dropping off the car we had breakfast at Maccas, of all places, bacon and egg muffins, pancakes, washed down by a good, free, “seniors” coffee served in proper mugs. Very tasty but not something we would do every morning.
To wear off some of the extra calories we walked to the edge of town and climbed up Anzac Hill, a lookout over Alice as well as the town war memorial. This area was well set out and had good views over the town and the surrounding ranges.
From here we walked down to the light industrial area looking at new vehicles in the Nissan and Toyota car yards before looking through a showroom with 4wd accessories and then on to the computer section of Harvey Normans. Nothing at any of these places caught our eye so our wallets emerged unscathed.
Not so when we went through the shopping mall, Judy buying a pair of crop pants, Rags a pair of shorts. They were
View of Alice from Anzac Hill.
Heavitree Gap in the background.
needed of course, and were on sale! At the supermarket we then bought the ingredients for the microwave fruit cake recipe which Peggy had given us the day before.
A call advising us the car was ready got us out of the shopping centre and when back at camp the fruitcake recipe was tested. Not a resounding success but tasty all the same.
We spent the early afternoon at the Araluen Cultural Precinct where we saw the Araluen Art Collection with its displays of the contemporary Aboriginal art movement of Central Australia and the Western Desert. Original water colours by Albert Namatjira were on display, these the most enjoyed by us both.
The Museum of Central Australia tells the story of Central Australia's unique natural and geological history. Exhibitions follow the evolution of the landscape and the fascinating creatures that inhabited it. There were displays of some of the surprising megafauna fossils discovered in the internationally significant Alcoota fossil site. This includes a giant freshwater crocodile and the largest bird that ever lived. The exhibition included Central Australian birds, mammals, reptiles and insects giving us the chance to identify many of the creatures
we'd seen on our travels through the red centre.
Next-door was the Central Australian Aviation Museum which displayed a selection of aircraft used in the early days of development of the area. It was located in the original Connellan Airways hangar on the site of Alice Springs' first air strip, the museum houses early flying doctor planes, a restored DC3 and other historical aircraft and aviation memorabilia. We saw the remains of the 'Kookaburra', and read the tragic story of its crew who perished in the Tanami Desert searching for Kingsford-Smith, the famous Australian Aviator.
Mark and Helena joined us later in the afternoon and over drinks and the pork roast we had prepared, told of the sights and adventures they had over the past 5 or 6 days by taking their alternative route. Friday 2nd September 2016
A cold morning was spent in the park, alleviated by our new electric oil-filled heater. We bought it after a tip from Clive and Peggy who told us Bunnings in Alice were looking to be rid of them and they could be had for $10. It will most probably
be the first and last time we use it for quite some time.
Judy took the opportunity to mark a lot of the assignments that were due, giving her a chance for a break later in the week. Rags spent his time fiddling around the van and getting it ready to leave tomorrow.
After lunch we did take the opportunity to drive to the old telegraph station not far from where we were based. This station was set up on the banks of the Todd River and the spring-fed pool there gave Alice Springs it’s name.
A walk along the Laripinta Trail, which passed nearby, led us to Trig Point, from where the early surveyors based their maps of the area. This was a decent climb but we were rewarded at seeing several black footed wallabies within photographing distance.
The early evening was spent in town watching a parade of about 700 hotrods and other souped up vehicles participating in the Red Nats meet on over the weekend. Some really classic cars such as Falcon 351 GTs and many more modern cars, participated. One thing they all had in common
was the loud exhaust notes they had from the straight through pipes plus “cammy” motors; an enthusiasts delight!
From here we adjourned to a tavern in the mall, enjoying a drink with a pizza and various tapas. A good way to end our stay.
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