Posts Tagged With: rainbow bee-eater

Road Trip Activities #1 – Birding

Big road trips with kids can be challenging, but when you plan to spend over a year on the road, that’s a lot of travelling. You know that you have to keep the kids occupied somehow or the relentless chants of “Are we there yet?” or “I’m bored” from the back seat are going to send you insane.

Our friends set us many challenges before we left, but an obvious one was to spot as many birds as we could given the plan was to travel as widely as time permitted.

Not being particularly knowledgeable I set an arbitrary target of spotting 200 species on the trip, and very soon the kids were trying to outdo one another with their observation skills. We had a field guide, but often a fleeting glimpse from a car window couldn’t be resolved flicking through the pages. Photographs were required – that’s where I came in, but that meant stopping the car to take them. Genius! All of a sudden the trip slowed down and it no longer became a rush from one place to the next. The pace slowed and we learnt how to relax and enjoy everything around us.

The birding did become a bit addictive I must say and those hard core birders we meet scoff at the 300+ total we have amassed on the confirmed sighting list. Nonetheless the kids learnt a lot in the process, to the stage where they could identify birds by the call, and even call them to us by imitating them.

Whether it was stumbling across a cassowary on a bushwalk near Mission Beach, watching flocks of Metallic Starlings flying in to roost at 5.15pm at Chilli Beach, or listening to Whistling Kites in NT, watching the birds has etched many memories from the trip and promises so many more in the future.


Categories: 4WD, Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Natural World, Photography, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , | 1 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

Gibb River Road – Part 6 (South again to Drysdale and back to the Gibb)

The road back south was uneventful but painful as we had to relive the corrugations between King Edward River and Drysdale station. The Mitsubishi Pajero was feeling it too, as the windscreen cracks spread towards my view, and then the dashboard started playing up. First the speedometer stopped working, then the fuel economy gauge started climbing every minute until it hit 99.9l per 100km. Amanda was stressing that we wouldn’t have enough fuel to make Drysdale but unless we were leaking (a quick check discounted that) the other readings of range and the fact the fuel tank gauge was ok, led me to think it was an electronic problem (loose wire with the corrugations?). When the engine warning light came on I had to pull over and look it up in the manual. “Blah blah …. you should still be able to drive for a while. Get it checked up as soon as you can” sounded good to me as the Pajero was still running fine. Then the odometer stopped working!
I wasn’t prepared to drive beyond Drysdale after a long day’s drive and the bar was beckoning (yes there was a bar there with Sydney prices).

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The next morning a cattle egret came looking for frogs in our washing tub at breakfast. No matter how patiently it stood on the rim peering through the soapy bubbles the frogs didn’t show and it moved on after fifteen or more minutes. I was hoping it might have helped the washing up but without opposable fingers it would have been hard. A quick look at the other campsite, called Miners Pool was much more tranquil and less crowded by the river, but without the facilities 2km back at the station.
Back on the GRR we had a look at some rock art with crocodiles then headed north and east again. Lots of finches, rainbow bee-eater, and other birds were here in and amongst the pandanus and other trees that line the riverbanks.
We drove on past more carnage on the road starting with a boat trailer that had collapsed. Its owner patiently sat in his car awaiting the recovery truck. On the unsealed roads they charge by the hour and a car that had broken in half near Kalumburu had cost over $5,000 to tow to Kununurra for repairs. Then we saw Marty with a flat tyre. We pulled over to assist, though he had it all under control and he was soon off again. As we helped the recovered boat and trailer passed us on the back of the recovery truck. Five minutes further down the road he had stopped to pick up two people who had taken a corner too fast and ended up hitting a tree. They took their belongings and rather glumly climbed into the cabin of the truck.
The Gibb River Road, like any other unsealed road needs to be driven carefully, with tyres sufficiently deflated for better grip on the rough surface, and watching your speed as loose gravel on some of the corners are like marbles allowing little traction in places. “Drive to the conditions” is the best advice we continually heard to avoid mishaps.
Late in the afternoon we drove into Home Valley Station on the Pentecost River. The drive down the hill to the station turn-off commands spectacular views of the Cockburn Ranges and at sunset the colours on the cliffs turn many shades of red.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Brachina Gorge, Flinders Ranges

We took the dirt road through Bunyeroo Gorge to the middle of Brachina Gorge, stopped at a couple of the lookouts then entered Brachina Gorge. The gorge is a geological showcase for many rock formations/types over 130 million years from 620+million years to 500 millions ago over a 20km drive. In 2004 a new geological period, the Edicarian, was determined based on fossil beds found in the gorge, that documented many primitive life forms not previously documented (we’d seen these in the museum in Adelaide). We camped nearby at the Trezona campground by the river. Once unhitched from the trailer we explored the gorge and found the recent rains had washed away sections of road, nothing the Pajero couldn’t handle fortunately. The highlight for the kids was Youngoona waterhole where they found enough water to submerse themselves and cool off, catch the enormous tadpoles and watch the birdlife that congregates around the river. My favourite was the rainbow bee-eater, but there were also kingfishers and nests in the cliff that looked like swifts or swallows – anyone who can identify please let us know. Wedgetail eagles frequent the gorges in abundance too.

The morning brought Xavier scampering up from the riverbed with a bat roosting in a curled piece of tree bark.

As we drove out of the gorge we found a mob of yellow footed rock wallabies, the cutest we have seen yet with their hooped tails.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Offroad, Photography, South Australia, Travel, Travel Adventure, Walks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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