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Published: July 13th 2019
Upon leaving Stanthorpe, destination Kimberley region, it made sense to head up the guts of QLD, cross the border after Mt Isa, and skip into & over NT into WA.......hmmmm Trevor had other ideas! Trevor, the cyclone that is. With every road in a northerly direction between us and the Kimberley closed, washed away or bogged, our hand was forced into driving south then across then up - like some crazy magic carpet ride we embarked on this journey on March 25th.
After finishing up the last bits & pieces on the cottage, and trying to fit our entire lives into the little white box that is Boris Minor, we got away about 4pm and stopped off at one of our favourite 'local' camping spots (the Showgrounds at Tenterfield, about 30 mins south) where we enjoyed one last hurrah at a favourite watering hole The Commercial Hotel. Waking to a chilly morning it was a no-brainer to head somewhere warm - of course Moree hotsprings were on the mind! We added an element of freshness to the human soup for a day or two soaking in the 39 degree goodness, then our trip true- westerly began with a
night on the 4 mile at Brewarinna. A gorgeous spot, birdlife, right on the tranquil waterfront, gentle clouds rolling overhead and then a pitter-patter of rain. Pitter-patter became shitty splatter as the heavens opened and our beautiful camp turned into a mud-wrestling rink! It was easiest to just take our shoes off and wallow barefoot in the mud while we packed up & moved to more solid ground! The rain didn't ease the whole rest of the night and we were so glad we decided to shift camp to the tar carpark at the entrance to the camp. Here we decided a easy dinner was in order and enjoyed a plate of nibbles, washed down with a lovely Jester Hill Wine (cheers Mick & Ann!)
An early start the next day had us dodging sheep, roos, goats and eagles, and thousands of roadkill of previous species, all the way across the Barrier Hwy (they had significant rains recently so plenty of feed in the roadside long paddock). We got to Broken Hill and a very chilly night, but the park had a brilliant camp kitchen so we grilled a couple of T-bones that we had bought from
the famous Tenterfield Butcher (Famous for winning the title of sausage king a dozen or more times - yes we bought snags too!).
Nearing the SA quarantine checkpoint, we realised we hadn't eaten all our veggies (sorry mums!) so we stopped off for a cook-off so we could take them in safely, and then it was time to decide which roads to take up the true guts of this wide brown land......seeing as we've traversed the main highway straight from Port Augusta to Alice more times than we'd like to count, it was an easy decision to head into the stunning Flinders Ranges again, after a night at a park in Peterborough to catch up on the laundry duties. With a dinner at the lovely Woolshed Restaurant at our old favourite, Rawnsley Park Station, we headed into the 560 million year old rock formations (silt and lime mainly) taking in the Bunyeroo Valley, Brachina Gorge, Yanyanna Hut and Parachilna Gorge which bought us out, conveniently, at the Prairie Hotel where a feed of roadkill and a cold cider gave us time to decide our next route.
Do we? Could we? Can we? The Oodnadatta
The reason for the long drive
we took this pic of road closures in QLD the day we were due to leave Stanthorpe.
Track had eluded us on 3 other occasions, due to rain, so we scoured the Weatherzone App with trepidation and amazement - no rain predicted for weeks! OK LETS DO IT!! A cold shower and fuel stop at the now-ghost-town of Leigh Creek, and we hit the track proper, stopping for a fizzy one at Marree Hotel and pulling up stumps at one of the old ghan railway sidings. Oh, the flies!! Little did we know, but we weren't going to take our fly nets off for weeks yet. You'll see from the camp pics that we were treated to one of the most spectacular star displays we've seen for years. A glorious sunset, followed by that show, really cements for us the reason the outback keeps calling us. It's like nothing else. And then there's the flies!! True story - the following morning we had the windows open on the car (fly nets firmly in place) as getting rolling is our preferred method of ridding the car of the thousand that come in on the back of your shirt, and NO SHIT they were flying along beside the car at 45kmph!! BLAH
Continuing along the Track,
we checked out an amazing geological feature called "the bubbler" which has to be seen to be believed. It's like there is a supernatural being, rolling and gurgling around under a layer of fine multi-coloured silt (like you see in one of those moving sand-art thingys) and we truly could have sat there watching it all day, it was that mesmerising. The clincher that got us moving was a nearby sign that explained there were "fish eating" spiders in the area....WTF??? What kind of (or what size) spider can bloody eat fish??? Needless to say, we got back in the car for safety.
Next we stopped briefly for a feed and water (aka steak sanga & beer) at the iconic William Creek Pub, where we both left a bit of ourselves on the memorabilia wall/roof/any available surface - for a small donation to the RFDS - if travelling through this town be sure to stop in and leave an old licence, or your favourite undies, old hat etc for this great cause. That night we stayed under the longest railway bridge on the old Ghan line, as well as being the longest single bridge in South Australia,
called Algebuckina Bridge. Way back in the 1890's this build cost £60,000 and employed 352 men, and the first train crossed it in January 1892 - imagine being a passenger on the first (steam) train - scary! Its now just a ghost-bridge.
The Oodnadatta Track itself was like a super-highway, we must have got our timing just right because so much of it was freshly graded - in fact we completed our maiden voyage in record time and arrived in Oodnadatta itself about 3 days before we anticipated. The Track actually continues on from town, into Marla, but having done that section twice we found ourselves with the next dilemma....which road next? A quick refuel at the Pink Roadhouse and a look over some maps and we noticed a road into Coober Pedy, via The Painted Desert (see our blog Water Divining for tales of the last time we were out this way) so, bugger it, let's go south! This road also was in pretty good shape, so we arrived in Coober in time for underground happy hour (and a decent win on the 'only underground pokies in the world' - we just had to give it
Starting off at the bottom end of the Oodnadatta track
a go!) and a couple of nights in a park right in town. Interestingly, Coober Pedy is considered the driest town in Australia, but every single time we have been here it's been raining! This time, thankfully not a drop.
Back on the Highway proper we kept heading north and into NT (again!) with our next major destination being Uluru & Kata Tjuta, to catch up with Ben & Lou, who used to run our favourite restaurant in Stanthorpe. We had a wonderful night catching up on their goss since moving, with their three boys, to Yulara a month earlier. Their eldest, Bosco, even loaned us his comfy big bed (and made it up with clean linen for our arrival - thanks mate!) and bunked in with his little brother for the night, for which we are so grateful. In true style, we stayed up way too late, ate amazing food, drank amazing wine (sorry about the depletion of your cellar guys!) and talked into the wee hours. It was such a pleasure catching up, thank you for having us and welcome to our blog! The wine is on us, rather than just IN us, next time!
The next night we had arranged accommodation as part of a package called "A night at field of light" which incorporates Bruce Munro's solar art installation at the base of Uluru, as well as tickets to the once-in-a-lifetime dinner Sounds of Silence. You get collected from your accommodation in time to drink French champagne while the sun sets over Uluru, and then seated at tables with crisp white linen, while your feet are touching the ancient red earth. The menu was tailored to using bush spices and traditional meats, such as roo, croc and emu, as well as great seafood and free-flowing drinks as part of the package. Needless to say, by the time they let us loose in the art installation around 9.30pm, we were floating on a coloured cloud of our own and this was by far the most fun part of the night. Oh that, and trying to find a quiet spot amid 100 other people to sneak in a pee before boarding the bus back to Yulara!
A quick cuppa with Ben & Lou in the morning and we were headed to our next stop Alice Springs, and a really
lovely stay with our ex-neighbour Mick who welcomed us warmly into our old neighbourhood. A few days of catching up, long chats on the spacious front verandah about world peace and such movements, and we felt truly relaxed, well fed and like we were part of the family! Thank you, and teenage Wes (who was so little last time we saw him) for having us, your home was like a haven for us dust-weary gypsys! While in Alice we also made the most of our time saying g'day to some old friends, John & Liz, Eric & Jenny, Jill, Vroomy, and even a Sunday session with Bek who Tab used to work with at the RFDS and her man James and their mate too. A real dose of nostalgia and so great to see some of the people who truly made our time living in (and revisiting) Alice so special.
Shortly after leaving Alice we had to decide if taking the Tanami Desert road was on our list this year, but after so much time on the dirt already (and in hindsight no idea of the amount of dirt yet to come), we went for tar and
revisited some beaut spots such as Bitter (hot) springs, Katherine (hot) springs, The Pebbles, and some of the weird ones too such as Wycliffe Well, the UFO sighting capital of Australia! Note: we have never seen an alien or UFO in Wycliffe Well, but we will keep an open mind. After Katherine, we had out sights firmly set on revisiting Tjuwaliyn (Douglas Hot Springs) - definitely in the top 10 things we love in Australia - only to find it CLOSED!! They want to make sure all the crocodiles are out of the are before opening it to the public. Well, OK, just this one, don't think we'll forgive you next time! With a few extra days now up our sleeve a trip to Darwin was in order where we schlepped about in a luxurious apartment (thank you to Jeff's parents John & Colleen who had given us a series of giftcards for past birthdays & Christmasses as we used these up to stay in LUXE!), a cruise aboard a seafood & sunset charter, foodie & winey adventures, and even a day out on the Big Red Bus (not to be confused with the Wiggles Big Red Car) where we
Flinders Ranges SA
hopped on and off at the Casino, Waterfront, Wharf - but NOT the museum, where the current display was SPIDERS!!! Tab couldn't even look at the sign out the front - in saying that it was a spider the size of a small car on the banner. Eeeeeek!
Time to admit it, WA was calling, and we crossed the border on April 23, a whole month after bidding farewell to Stanthorpe. After clearing quarantine, we were immediately reminded of the rugged beauty of this northern part of the country. A night at Lake Argyle resort had us enjoying some fizz and tapping our toes to some live music by Steve Case, a local acoustic artist who we would get to know a bit better in our time working in Kununurra. What? Work, we hear you say! Yes, for a month we shacked up in a lovely waterfront holiday park and got to know the little town of Kununurra a whole lot better than we did when passing through seven years ago (blog Boris Among the Boabs) after Jeff had smashed his knee hiking at Wolfe Creek crater. Some of the surrounding countryside is just breathtaking and we
even got to see some of it by water and air as part of working at the park (we were a commission based sales office for local air charters, cruises etc). Unfortunately Tab got very ill when we arrived and spent the first two weeks trying to get over a respiratory infection, and her first rostered day on she was whisked to the airport at 7am to board a 6-seater plane taking in the spectacular Berkley River region, King George Falls, Mitchell Plateau and Falls. Now, anyone who knows Tab, also knows that planes are NOT her preferred method of travel.....hang on, this thing isn't anything more than a tiny tin can with wings....where is the PLANE??? Needless to say, she will never fear a jet again.
Jeff was treated to a flight (in a roomy 16-seater mind you) over the spectacular Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) and a lunch/tour at the Argyle Diamond Mine, home of the pink diamond. Sadly, Tab's hand is STILL not home to an Argyle pink diamond, with a speck of sand sized one costing upwards of $5000! Further treats ensued on his birthday where we boarded a surprise sunset dinner cruise on Lake
Flinders Ranges SA
our camp is the little white dot at bottom, centre
Kununurra, taking in a spectacular sunset, canapés, steak dinner, and of course a few cold coronas to seal the deal. We really enjoyed the park, the staff and the town, but unfortunately it all came crashing down when one of our "non-negotiables" (two days off a week, together, as promised in the interview) became a management "non-negotiable" (no negotiation to be entered into, we own you, and we own your days off, and you aren't having them together) making the decision to leave a really easy one! It was when the "non" negotiations began that we were also treated to a bag full of guilt over the free flights we had been given as part of selling the products. Flights that were booked FOR us, not BY us, which cost the park absolutely nothing! No thanks, you can keep your guilt trips!
With freedom back on our side, we decided to go and see Purnululu from the ground, as it had remained on our bucket-list from all those years ago and boy, was it bloody amazing. We took the Duncan Highway in, which incidentally requires you to go back into NT, then cross into WA/NT another three
times - quite the metaphor for our lives at present! We enjoyed a night under some spectacular stars on a station east of the Bungles, and at Sawpit Gorge and past China Wall, then we took the arduous and infamous track in to Purnululu camp - 52kms of pure hell! Once there (and trying not to think about the fact you have to take the same road out again) the camp sites are great, with drop toilets and bore water on tap, which was so good as you could have a hot camp shower on site after spending the days hiking and boulder climbing. It's true, Purnululu has firmly entered the top ten places to visit in Australia....it's seriously creeping up to more like top 50 these days!
Now, what to do...what to do.....
Judbarra/Gregory National park had been on our bucket list for years and it just made sense to go and see all these places we had listed, after all isn't that why we create bucket lists? So with nowhere to go, and nowhere to be, we hit the tracks for weeks on end and took in some purely unreal sights, going
Enjoying the sunset
Woolshed Restaurant Rawnsley Park SA
from Judbarra, past Top Springs (don't bother) and then crossed back over the Stuart Hwy to see all the stunning places south of Arnhem Land, such as King Ash Bay, Borroloola, Limmen National Park (home of the Lost City formations), and the back road into Mataranka (yep, more hot springs!) and back into Katherine for the second time in a month. With a zero-type birthday looming, we killed some time exploring some places we missed in Kakadu and south of Darwin, before heading into the big smoke once more to celebrate said-birthday.
A little birdie (or four) had whispered that they were going to be in Darwin to catch the Ghan later that week, arriving on the big day itself so it was a no brainer that we share the festivities. Tabs parents Scott and Maria and their lovely friends Pete & Dot generously shared their time in Darwin with us, taking in a spectacular cruise on the eve of Territory Day. Now, if you don't know what Territory Day is all about, basically its the one day in the whole year where any child, woman, dog, man and psychopath can purchase explosives. Yep, TNT FOR ALL!!!
There are no rules (except that you must blow all your shit up before the clock strikes midnight), and to witness it from the water was something in itself. It was impossible to know where to look, there were fireworks going off along the entire of Darwin-town, not to mention the big show put on by the City, there were numerous fires caused by the chaos, and we really felt sorry for the Fire Brigade. We enjoyed a heap of quality foodie outings, notably Tapas and wine on the eve of Tabs birthday and a night at the Deckchair Cinema (special thanks to Tabs brother Adam and sister-in-law Carmena for these wonderful gifts!) and the Darwin Sailing Club. We were absolutely spoilt by them and so lucky that the dates matched up with our location at the time, it was fantastic to see you all up here in the top end.
We had hoped to see the troops off on the train and have a nosey-look on board, but received a text from Maria as we were leaving to say that once they were on board they were locked in and there were no pass outs or
pass ins. Oops, never mind, must have been in the fine print. So we sent farewell hugs via text emojis instead and they were off down the guts of the country, albeit in style. Now, we find ourselves looking after a gorgeous pup called PB (Peanut Butter) in a little house in Darwin while his mum and dad are in NZ. Its a couple we met through our profile on Aussie Housesitters, an online community we have been part of for the past few years. Its given us some time to explore the city a bit more, take long walks on the beach with PB and enjoy the creature comforts of a couch, kitchen and lovely outdoor space. Oh, and NETFLIX!! If you don't have Netflix, don't get it. It's a trap. It's a time killer. It's evil....
We will bid farewell to Darwin on Monday and see where the universe takes us (general direction WA), we hope it's to jobs where we feel fulfilled and respected. We are the brokest we have ever been, having unintentionally had the past three months off, but this mad life journey we undertook 15 years ago isn't about collecting the
usual trappings of life. We want to collect experiences, see natural wonders and create memories with the people that already have and will become part of our journey. How lucky we are to share it with you all by blog! I know, this blog is a long one, thanks for reading it, and at the very least we hope the pics (there are 162 of them, scroll to the bottom of the page to access them all easily) inspire you to explore you own back yard and beyond - it's a magical country out there.
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