Camper Trailer

And so it ends….for now

I knew that once we crossed the border into NSW again psychologically everyone would be thinking of home, and once you do that travelling it’s hard to keep going. Across the border Amanda and I knew we could just drive home in a day, though neither of us aired it openly. We had had to kill a week getting home on a trip that would normally be done in a day. We had deliberately tried to take our minds off it by visiting people and getting to some more out of the way places but with a couple of days left it was increasingly hard to plan.

We had planned to visit Barrington Tops but some navigation errors saw us turning off towards Tom Creek, shortly after Mt Seaview, and before we knew it we were switch-backing our way, in 2WD, up a narrow unsealed road, over 1000m again. Once again the road less travelled rewarded us with magnificent views of remote farmland and national park forest but it wasn’t in the plan. At the end of the day we stopped overnight in Barrington, kicked a footie around to let off some steam and got to bed early.

Over 13 months since we had left Sydney, and 56,000km later we realised the next morning that it was time…..we couldn’t delay it any more, and with that we waved goodbye to the outback and the countryside and crawled back into the slow traffic that congests Sydney’s streets every day.

Arriving home again was a bittersweet experience. I knew Amanda needed to get back to see her family, and a fair bit of maintenance was required on the car and belongings, but it also meant the dream was over. The kids needed to invest some time re-acquainting with school friends too, so we arranged for them to attend the last two weeks.

Sydney Distance Education Primary School were fantastic with their support, understanding and flexibility with the teaching as we travelled. Often having no telephone reception for days, even weeks, created challenges but the kids teachers were always willing to adapt to our needs and this was appreciated. It wasn’t always easy as we found being on the move so often meant we didn’t get into a daily routine. Lack of that discipline made it more challenging for us and the kids.

Our Camprite trailer was a workhorse that never faltered, and with the support we got from Perth for a few minor things, on a couple of occasions, it was one less thing to worry about. Having a trailer that can be set-up and dismantled easily in under 5 minutes (I timed it) is great, particularly in adverse weather, and being able to house 2 adults and up to 4 kids in bunks off the ground (no worrying about snakes or crocs required) is something few camper trailers can provide.

The Mitsubishi Pajero did us proud too, never shying from its job to get us into remote and rough terrain, as far off the beaten track as I dared. The scratched and dented paintwork is testament to this and if anyone knows how to get rid of bulldust please let us know as even the interior has a red tint throughout.

Everyone asks “What was the favourite place?” so I might get Fifty Toes Walkabout members to answer the obvious questions in a few more blogs to follow – just in case you’re wondering, and if anyone has a burning question or two let me know and I’ll include them. Hope you enjoy the quick recap of some of the photos from some of the great places we visited.

Back home we can now start planning for the next trip, whilst looking for work, and who knows where that might be!

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Categories: Adventure, australia, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Road trip, Sydney, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

Fraser Island (Part 1)

After over a week’s unscheduled stay in Noosa it was time to revisit our last major 4WD challenge of our trip, Fraser Island.

Having visited twice previously the plan this time was to explore beyond the typical tourist attractions. Previous trips had been restricted to 3 days and had seen us staying on the south east side of the island exploring only half of one side of the island.

Personal ferry service to Hook Point

Personal ferry service to Hook Point

The ferry terminal at Inskip Point is a beach of soft sand 100m from the unsealed road. As we drove onto the beach the ferry had just departed, but as I accelerated across the beach the skipper must have seen us, reversed and returned to pick us up. The ferry was empty so we got our own personal ferry service which made it seem worthwhile considering the rather pricey cost for a 5 minute crossing. The deckhand joked that he would save us a place on our return trip in a week’s time.

We had timed the tides well and drove from Hook Point along the beach and up the eastern beach, some 65km to Yurru campsite, just north of Cathedral Beach camp. The beach is under normal road regulations with a speed limit of 80km but following recent rain the unwary can be caught out at this speed with washouts.

Despite being the largest sand island in the world, over 100km long and 20km wide, there is no shortage of static and flowing freshwater and the erosion of beach sand caused by creeks can cripple the suspension of even the most sturdy cars if hit too fast.

Driving up the beach we were treated to the sight of two inquisitive dingos, then as we approached the Eurong settlement six dingos including young pups were running around the vehicles of some fishermen. Nothing beats the traditional dingo welcome to Fraser island. A ban on dogs on the island has retained the pure-bred status for these dingos as inter-breeding often occurs back on the mainland.

Shortly before Yurru camp the majestic wreck of the Maheno emerged through the sea spray in the distance.

The Maheno sank in 1935, washed ashore in a cyclone, but sufficient remains make it an interesting stopping point for tourists. Original wooden decking still lines some of the wreck, even after exposure to daily tides and the occasional cyclone storms over the last eighty years.

On our first day a transmission warning light came on and when actions recommended by the car manual failed to rectify it we were in a bit of a quandary. It still drove so we chose to ignore it until we got off the island again!

With a very changeable and wet long range weather forecast we chose to explore as much as we could in the first two reasonable days.

The northern forests scenic drive took us initially to a lookout over Knifeblade sandblow where the tops of overrun treetops poked starkly out of the sand. Lake Allom, further inland offered a warm refreshing swim amongst the freshwater turtles. We then took a couple of tracks to explore the western coast, Awinya and Woralie creeks. With a prevailing easterly wind, it was nice to experience calm beaches with no surf on the western side of the island. The camp at Woralie was very attractive though the creek crossing was very deep and not one that we were prepared to attempt. We were half way across when I decided it needed to be waded and when the water reached my chest I was glad I hadn’t proceeded.

Woralie Creek beach

Woralie Creek beach

It was fun to watch a car coming the other way, without a snorkel, as the bow wave poured over the bonnet and up their windscreen.

We explored another track that headed towards Moon Point but not being the scheduled track resulted in many scratches and a nasty ding in the side of the car. To add insult to injury the last 7km to Moon Point were closed.

The track leads through magnificent forest, where mature trees dwarf the cars as they pass through. Giant Kauri trees give way to lower scrub and the outlook continually changes. The narrow roads are restricted to 30km and constantly keep the driver busy negotiating the way through natural obstacles and fallen trees can easily halt progress.

Categories: 4WD, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, National Park, Natural World, Offroad, Photography, Photos, QLD, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mackay and surroundings

With our wheels firmly back on the bitumen again it seemed fitting to indulge in a little luxury and as we headed down the coast towards Dolphin Heads, near Mackay, watching the sugar cane harvesting in progress.

The road down the coast is regularly transected with small gauge railway lines that are used by sugar cane farmers to transport cane or mulch to and from the processing factories. We witnessed plenty of activity with harvesting in the fields, loading and movement of the trains and the processing factory chimneys puffing away, indicative of the industry inside.

Dolphin Heads Resort

Dolphin Heads Resort

In Mackay we stayed at the beautiful Dolphin Heads resort for a few days lounging by the pool, relaxing.

View from beach of Dolphin Heads

View from beach of Dolphin Heads

We drove to Eungella National Park looking for platypus in the pouring rain. We found plenty of birds including the particularly colourful scarlet honeyeater there but only one platypus in Broke River.

We explored Blacks Beach, Eimeo and the city of Mackay but it was a time for winding down and relaxing.

Categories: australia, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pennyfather and Mapoon, West of the Tip

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And so the long journey back south begins in earnest. The drive back from Usher didn’t seem too bad with only one termite infested tree blocking our way, then the corrugations to the Jardine River ferry didn’t shake the bones like they did on the way up. Maybe we have finally got used to bull dust and corrugations now? It seems normal to drive to the left of the road markings, along the less corrugated but clearly worn paths of the locals.

On recommendations from travellers we had met on the Cape we were keen to explore a little of the Gulf side of the Cape. After 4 weeks on the Cape we were in need of supplies, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables, and curiosity was leading us to the city of Weipa anyway, so restocking and refueling was the order of the day.

Fruit Bat Falls

Fruit Bat Falls

A quick stop was required, firstly at Fruit Bat Falls to wash away excess bulldust, then at Bramwell station to view the “Rego tree”. then on to Moreton station for the night.

A “short cut” from the Old Telegraph Track south of Moreton took us across Batavia Downs station to York where we joined the Peninsula Developmental road leading to Weipa. With the exception of a few heavily corrugated sections this road soon improved and before we knew it we hit bitumen driving into Weipa.

Just north of Weipa lies the Pennyfather River, supposedly a top fishing spot, but also a beautifully peaceful beach camp.

Access is via a Rio Tinto mining lease and the only traffic lights we have seen for a while were those for mine vehicles passing. The boom-gate was broken so we watched quite a few monster trucks pass by, with loads of dusty bauxite piled high in the hold. Even the water trucks managed to dwarf our cars waiting patiently for the gates to rise. They follow behind spraying hundreds of litres of water on the road to reduce dust levels. In the end Simon jumped out of his car and physically lifted the boom-gate so all could pass.

Being on Aboriginal land a permit is required but once there a very long beach offers many camping options, from basic amenities for a small fee, managed by a ranger to free camping along the beach, south of the local beach shacks. We chose the latter, searching for a site that another family had told us had the makings of a funpark made from washed up debris from the beach. After ten minutes driving along the soft sand it was time to stop and we found a great shaded spot with a tyre swing. The Gulf waters lapped gently on the beach and the glassy water was a welcome change from the wind blown east coast. Thirty minutes later an onshore wind blew up and brought a veritable swell with it, shattering the initial idyllic appeal of this west coast.

It did improve the next day and we had fun trying unsuccessfully to catch massive trevally that were cruising up and down the shoreline. The fishing gods were not kind to us and once again sausages hit barbeque instead of fresh fish.

The kids built hammocks from fishing nets, strung between trees, and spent hours on the tyre swing.

Whilst we didn’t find a plaque, and there must be one there somewhere, the Pennfather River has historical significance as being the first place that a European landed in Australia. Willian Janszoon, a Dutch navigator, sailing in the Duyfken landed here in 1606, long before James Cook.

Today this area is totally alcohol-free and it is not permitted to even carry alcohol into this area, however, with no-one policing it, discarded bottles and cans litter the sand and bush where some people found it easier to discard rather than take the rubbish with them, thereby spoiling it for future visitors.

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From Pennyfather we headed north for a couple of days to Mapoon where the Dulcie River meets the Gulf. The camp on the western ocean side offered more protection from the wind and on local advice Jackie Creek some 12km south along the beach offered good fishing opportunities

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The kids together with Simon and Hilary’s girls scoured the shoreline for materials and commenced building a “humpy” city. Humpys are the temporary shelters that aborigines used, conical huts made from logs, with leaves or fur to cover the roof. The kids made scaled down versions from the long mangrove seeds that can be found everywhere, washed up with each tide.

Jackie Rivermouth

Jackie Rivermouth

Oscar and I slipped away for a quiet fish, driving down to Jackie Creek where we saw locals using spears to catch mud crabs amongst the reef. We had no success but witnessed plenty of “bait balls” of fish being doggedly pursued by larger fish around them and by a large flock of hungry terns diving wave after wave into the throng for a meal. The next day we returned at the right point of the tide and for a busy half hour caught mangrove jack for dinner, whilst keeping an eye out for a large crocodile we had seen when we arrived.

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The wild horses called brumbies proliferate around Mapoon and Pennyfather too and it isn’t unusual, driving along the beach, to spot small groups or see their footprints coming to and from the beach and swamplands behind. We only saw the one crocodile and had a couple of shallow swims, then a local advised that they live in the swamplands behind the beach at this time of year, waiting for the big wet to arrive when they become more mobile and visible.

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Shorebirds were present in abundance but with my ailing Canon EOS camera struggling to focus correctly, I couldn’t capture images

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Offroad, Photos, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Usher Point, Cape York

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With the Tip thoroughly explored we decided to take a 50+km track with Simon, Hilary and the girls to Usher Point. The road condition and distance is sufficient to deter all but the hardened traveller, and from the Hema guide the track was going to be tough. We had heard reports of 5-6 hours travelling time required with bush tracks so tight you would be relieved of paintwork along the way. Parks and wildlife don’t encourage trailers either but we were up for a challenge, the first, and by far the hardest, booking one of the four campsites. Once again we wrestled with a ridiculous booking system, being told only one site was available by a second operator.

The drive out was actually nothing like what we expected. It took two hours and the road must have been cleared in recent years judging by the size of the track and regrowth rates. No paint scratching on this track and very few challenges other than a couple of sections of soft sand. The Camprite trailer cruised through as it has done for the last 11 months without a hiccup.

Camp fun with beach flotsam

Camp fun with beach flotsam

Our campground greeted us piled with flotsam and jetsam salvaged from the beach, a blessing in disguise as whilst unsightly it did provide hours of entertainment for the kids. The coastline was rugged and exposed to the strong onshore winds. The four campsites are spaced across 2+km of track, one in the rainforest, one in deep soft sand behind the beach, another perched precipitously on a totally unsheltered overhung cliff (not good for sleepwalkers), and ours, nestled in low-lying bush, very slightly sheltered.

A lot of beach combing yielded more chambered nautilus shells, and a surprising source of multi-coloured clay that the kids insisted on bringing back to camp to play with. Much of the cliff was clay, however large islands protruded from the sand in places, with thin layers of many colours.

Go-karts made from beach rubbish

Go-karts made from beach rubbish

Gunshot Creek re-enactment

Gunshot Creek re-enactment

The kids used their imagination with items of rubbish found on the beach and from home-made go-karts made from fishing floats, raced down the track, to re-enactments of the Gunshot Creek crossing on the Old Telegraph Track, a lot of fun was had by all.

Turtle embryo in shell

Turtle embryo in shell

A broken turtle shell washed up one day with a dead embryo with features fully formed and clearly visible, including yolk.

The drive from the camp to the beach was the biggest challenge requiring lowering tyre pressures to handle the soft sand track and campsite. This sandy camp was separated by a murky but shallow creek, but fresh tracks indicated that it was inhabited by a small crocodile.

Sadd Point panorama

Sadd Point panorama

We stayed for three days, exploring the beaches, driving to Sadd Point nearby, and pushing an extremely scratchy track towards Escape Creek, where at times we were pushing over saplings higher than the car that were growing in there middle of the track.

The road to Sadd Point

The road to Sadd Point

I found a new favourite bird, the aptly named Magnificent Riflebird. Having heard its call I managed to coax one in close to see its beautiful metallic green collar, and hear its rustling feathers as it chased a female through the treetops. It eluded my attempts to photograph though.

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Around the campfire on the first night we were interrupted by the erratic flight of a nightjar fluttering past several times. Following the frog-like sounds I found two sitting on the track every night. A Woompoo fruit dove allowed a close photo too one evening and once Simon’s very successful coconut lemon cake, cooked in the camp oven, wafted into the air we got regular visits from the local bandicoot.

Despite insistences from the booking consultant that campsites were full we saw no-one for three days at Usher Point. As we drove out a fallen tree across the road might have explained why, but four adults could move it aside quite easily, before we needed to reach for winches or saws.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Offroad, Photography, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Old Telegraph Track, Cape York (Part 2)

Having made the decision not to risk trailer and car at Gunshot Creek, we had bypassed to the camp at Cockatoo Creek, some 10km north, then drove back hoping to see less conservative people prepared to risk their vehicles.

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It was quiet when we arrived with only another family there awaiting some action. We walked down to the creek where the Hall of Fame tree lies adorned with wreckage from the cars that didn’t make it, bragging notices and a lot of rubbish. On one side there are three main crossings, No.1, the original path offering a vertical drop some 3-5m into a muddy pool. With only centimetres either side of the car it leaves no margin for error and only the brave or foolhardy attempt this. Ferns grow out of the cliff walls on either side. No.2 and No.3 are not much different, offering only slightly less than vertical entries, with longer deep muddy exits. On the other side some 4 or 5 “chicken” options are available where the car’s entry can be controlled to a certain degree. We ended up seeing two cars do this side before we left, both performing the crossing relatively effortlessly, though the first Patrol lost both taillights on the descent. The secret to an easy crossing appeared to be suspension lift and large mud tyres. Without these a winch is the necessary accessory to get out.

Sizing up No.2

Sizing up No.2

No.1 birds eye view

No.1 birds eye view

It was only later that we discovered we missed out seeing the five cars that completed No.2 later in the afternoon when they turned up at camp in the evening.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Challenges, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, Offroad, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Old Telegraph Track, Cape York (Part 1)

With the Lenovo seeming dead I have adopted an Apple to continue blogging!

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The Old Telegraph Track(OTT) is a very popular 4WD track that heads north up Cape York from Bramwell  Station to the Jardine river and beyond with the Telegraph terminating at Cable Beach near Punsand Bay, only 20km or so from the most northerly point of mainland Australia.

We left Morton Telegraph Station early, quickly drove 42km to Bramwell Station, keen but unsure what to expect at the first challenge Palm Creek.

A small wooden sign, not worthy of a photo pointed the track past the station and we pulled up at Palm Creek behind a big tour bus and a couple of other cars. Their eyes lit up and everyone reached for their cameras when we said we were going to cross.

It was certainly a bit more challenging than I was expecting but the word was if you can do this crossing you can complete the track. The entry into the creek was a two step, narrow muddy track with the tiniest bend towards the base. Total drop was possibly ten metres.

With other people arriving behind I jumped to it, handed cameras and video to people and started the GoPro running.

In the excitement of the moment I then made a number of rooky errors. Firstly, the GoPro was in camera mode so I got a photo of me looking at the camera – oops. Secondly, feeling the pressure of people waiting to cross I forgot to reduce my tyre pressures.

The descent was relatively easy as you just have to get your tyres in the tracks and keep them there while descending in low gear. The opposite side offered two exits and we chose the direct one. Naively thinking we could savour the moment with a slow ascent, I underestimated the traction on the slippery incline and sheepishly descended backwards after getting only the car nose to the top. On the next attempt I made my third error trying to ascend before the low range gear had engaged properly. The third time I beckoned to Amanda to grab the winch, put it round the nearest tree and 5 minutes later we were out. The tourist bus was happy with the spectacle but it was a very amateur effort indeed as the next cars showed us, roaring past in one attempt.

The ice was broken and we were on our way at last. Three kilometres later we arrived at Dulcie Creek, where track notes indicated care required to avoid deep holes. A muddy puddle sat in the middle of an otherwise dry river bed so this obstacle was passed with relative ease.

Dulhunty and Bertie rivers provided more water but these were more a case of avoiding deep holes in the rocky bed, nothing a quick wade in the crystal waters couldn’t solve.

One thing we did notice was that there are very few intact telegraph poles remaining. Souvenir hunters have bent the metal poles to remove the porcelain insulators along the entire track. There were some older wooden poles standing but these too lacked any porcelain adornments. They would look more impressive on the poles than sitting forlornly on people’s

The infamous challenge on the OTT is Gunshot Creek and we chose not to do this challenge as we were towing a fully laden Camprite trailer that we still needed to live in for some time. We bypassed this and setup camp at Cockatoo Creek, another crossing where deep holes in the riverbed need to be treated with respect. We camped above a deep waterhole and the kids spent the afternoon fishing and swimming. I spotted a big barramundi whilst spotlighting that night, and a quick well placed cast landed a 70cm fish for the next evening’s dinner.

Up early in the morning I took Oscar for a fish, still seeking his first barramundi, and landed a 72cm Sarotoga on my second cast. Unfortunately Oscar only caught some good-sized grunter. We also got a visit from the rare Palm Cockatoo which is a magnificent bird with a huge beak, black with red cheeks and a huge array of long feathers on his head.

So far the Camprite trailer was holding up very well and all was good. As the sun rose we prepared for as visit to Gunshot Creek.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Fishing, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, Offroad, Photography, Photos, QLD, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Boudjamulla National Park (Lawn Hill)

Riversleigh is a world heritage site based on the abundance of unique fossil deposits found there. To get there we had a relatively short drive from our camp at the O’Shaughnessy River, two short, shallow, but surprisingly slippery river crossings, and the obligatory corrugated rocky dirt road that makes the outback what it is. Whilst it appears to be an unremarkable spot on the surface, the signs provided allow visitors to look past the dusty, dry rocky landscape. For even the more imaginative visitor visualisation of the change in landscape over millions of years is challenging as the fossil record represents eras of marine reef, through to swamps when giant 4m freshwater crocodiles were the apex predators, and then elephant birds whose enormous size meant they couldn’t fly.

One fossil in the rock exposed a cross section of a turtle shell thought to be long extinct, however, as recently as 1995 the gulf snapping turtle was rediscovered in the Lawn Hill river system, thriving as it has done for thousands if not millions of years without change.

A short drive from this hot arid, fly-ridden place brought us to the oasis that is Boudjamulla National Park. The deep gorge and pandanus-lined river is a verdant oasis for fish and birdlife. Water levels were low and the Cascades had no water flowing over them, however the Indarri Falls, less than a kilometre upstream, spilled beautiful green, warm, lime-saturated water into the gorge. The water turbulence at the falls causes a gaseous release of carbon dioxide and the “tufa”, as it is called, is deposited at a surprising rapid rate, 2-3cm annually. The falls are not large, less than 3m in height, and covered in pandanus growth. Below the falls barramundi and turtles abound and we all spent hours exploring every nook and cranny.

The park also offers a number of bushwalks. The Wild Dog Dreaming track leads you along the river bank to a cliff face covered in ancient petroglyph art and more recent Waanyi rainbow serpent artwork. Island Stacks offered a walk on the limestone escarpment above the gorge, but the longest walk up the gorge was closed due to the threat of a grumpy buffalo that had recently been spotted up there.

All the forests were busy with birds and we spotted a pair of large channel-billed cuckoos near the trailer, and a whistling kite’s continual call gave away it’s nest site above the river, high in the outreaching limbs of a Eucalypt tree.

Canoes could be hired to explore but there was no need, and one day we made the decision to swim the one plus kilometre back to camp through the gorge, while Amanda carried our clothes back. The kids jumped on their inner tubes (presents from our friends at Marree Hotel so long ago now) and conquered the journey in no time at all.

 

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Natural World, Photography, Photos, QLD, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Walks, Wildlife | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

West from Alice Springs

Our first night in Alice saw temperatures plummet to 3 degrees. What few warm clothes we had came out but it was actually quite nice as by 9am the temperature had risen enough to be comfortable again. With all warm clothes stowed again we headed out of town along the West MacDonnell Ranges.

Knowing it was a short drive for the day we made some impromptu unplanned stops as we went. First up was Simpsons Gap in the Tjoritja / West. MacDonnell National Park. Following the dry river bed towards the gap I was surprised to see “No Swimming” signs but at the gap there was a substantial lake full of icy cold water. A few black-footed wallabies hopped around the rock piles on both sides of the gap, looking down intently watching our every move. We also spotted plenty of striated grass wren jumping around the rocks and grass.

A little further along the road we stopped to have a look at the local indigenous artist, Kathleen Buzzacott’s studio. Everyone loved the deep bowls filled with coloured seeds, and running hands through them just felt so good! The kids were interested in the jewellery made from the seeds and then watched intently as Kathleen showed them how to dot-paint. A very interesting stop that inspired the kids drawing efforts that afternoon in the car.

Hermannsberg was established as a Lutherian Mission in 1877 by two newly arrived missionaries from Germany. Their trip alone to the area was a marathon of hardships and drought, having being despatched in mid-summer. Today the mission offers an insight to outback life in the late 19th century. The kids marvelled at the size of the porridge pot, particularly as we all ate hot porridge for breakfast. We also learnt that in the indigenous language, Arrernte, there are only four number words, for 1,2,3 then everything beyond this is “a mob”. The kids struggled  trying to grasp the concept, but an apple strudel was beckoning us in the café so we moved out of the school.

Just on the other side of Hermannsberg a dirt and sandy road led us up to Palm Valley. Having grabbed a campsite we decided to visit the valley before sunset and set off up a very rocky 4WD track to the start of the walk. It was slow and bumpy and the sun was falling fast but we all managed to make the 5km loop walk , then negotiate the track back down before nightfall. The deep-rich red colours of the valley rock walls were amazing to see as the sun dropped further in the sky, and to see Cabbage Tree palms nestled in the valley was interesting as the 2,000 odd palms are an isolated population, their nearest relatives being over 800km away in Queensland.

Categories: 4WD, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Natural World, Northern Territory, Offroad, Photos, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Walks | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Devils Marbles (Karlu Karlu)

It is a long drive from Mataranka to Alice Springs, with not much in between, and the major town, Tennant Creek, by all accounts is not worth staying in. We chose to ease ourselves into the cooler climate gently with two stops before Alice Springs. The first day we made a stop in Daly Waters to see the Stuart’s Tree, basically a tree stump with a large “S” engraved in the trunk (clearly visible if you squint both eyes and turn your neck at 45 degrees), supposedly engraved by John McDouall Stuart’s party on his third attempt to reach Darwin from the south in 1861/2. Then we had a quick look at the Daly Waters pub. Every inch of the walls and ceiling is adorned with caps, police badges, bras, foreign currency notes, rugby shorts, and much more. A cold beer would have been welcome but we still had more driving to do.

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Very close to the town of Elliot, we stopped for the night at a magnificent birding spot known as Longreach billabong. This long waterhole allowed waterfront camping and as we sat there stately jabiru storks, spoonbills, and brolgas strutted along the water’s edge. Meanwhile, darters sunned themselves with wings outspread, and rainbow bee-eaters scanned the sky for their next meal while sitting on dead branches.

The sunset was one of the best we have seen on the trip and our fellow travellers from home, Joel and Abelia “Our Roaming Home” finally caught up with us to exchange stories around a campfire. A great finish to the day.

Up early the next day, after a chilly night, we set off for Kunjarra (The Pebbles) a sacred women’s site just north of Tennant Creek. The site itself offered little more than a chance to stretch our legs and stroll along a short path through a hillside of small rocks, so we didn’t stop long.

Just beyond Tennant Creek is another hillside covered in rocks, but Karlu Karlu, or the Devils Marbles are more impressive and worthy of a stopover. The campsite was very popular (full) but we squeezed in a spot and set off to explore before the sun went down. We all had a lot of fun exploring the rocks, climbing all over them, and Xavier read us the Dreaming stories of the Devil Man, Arrange who spat on the ground, where it turned into the granite boulders that now litter the surrounding landscape. Plenty of photo opportunities kept me busy, even early the next morning before we left.

Categories: Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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