Week 15 | Alice Springs to Mataranka

Day 99-101: Alice Springs

Time to catch up on some baking before we head off on the next leg of our journey. I’m baking a batch of chocolate chip muffins and decide to try putting them on the bottom shelf of the turbo oven today. Winner, they have turned out much better!

I’ve picked up some Lebanese cucumbers and I’m making a batch of pickled cucumber.  My niece Belinda gave us a bottle when we left Ararat and they were amazing. I’ve never tried to make it before so here’s hoping they turn out ok. Mmm they are pretty good!

We’ve got two new neighbours at the park tonight and both are fellow Queenslanders. One couple from Gatton and the other from Rockhampton. We immediately strike up conversation with them and enjoy hearing about their travels.

Wildlife: Galahs, warblers, kangaroos, rock wallabies, No 28 parrots, finches, black cockatoos, magpies, flies.

Day 102: Alice Springs to Devils Marbles

It’s time to leave Alice Springs today after a 9 day break, the road is straight and the speed limit increases to 130km. It’s hard to imagine travelling at that speed. We were hoping to stop at the Tropic of Capricorn however the roadworks made it impossible for a caravan to negotiate the entry point.

We have to pay extra attention to dead wildlife on the road as the eagles won’t leave the carcass until the last minute. On the verge is a dead kangaroo, we count 7 eagles around the body, the most we have ever seen on our whole journey.

I haven’t driven much on this trip, today is a big day for us (407km) so I take on 90km of the journey and bring us into Barrow Creek for lunch. It’s not terribly inviting so we have a quick snack inside the van away from the flies and then we are back on the road again.

The landscape is dry, red dirt and in the distance are the Davenport Ranges. We are staying at the Devils Marble Hotel Caravan Park tonight on an unpowered site for $10.  It’s Anzac Day and as I enter the pub to pay for the site, it’s packed with people watching the footy.  Entry is around the side of the pub and we pull up close to the gate.   A hot shower is always welcomed after a long drive.

It’s been sometime since we have enjoyed a dinner out. The reviews on Wikicamp are very favourable for the hotel so we decide to have a date night. Dinner did not disappoint. Andrew had his usual Parmi and I had the grilled barramundi with chips and a delicious Greek salad. It was amazing! Three pieces of Barra! Who would have thought in the middle of nowhere a little pub could put on a great meal. It was worth every cent.

Wildlife: dead kangaroos, eagles, crows, 2 dead cows, corellas, plains turkey, flies.

Day 103:  Devils Marbles to Renner Springs

Departing the Devils Marbles Hotel and the flies are sticking to us in the hundreds. My new job is to try to kill them with the fly squat. We have a method of leaving all the windows down, picking up speed, wind them up & then I kill the hanger-ons with the fly squat!

Only 8km further along the Stuart Highway is Karlu Karlu more commonly known as Devils Marbles. Karlu Karlu is a provider of bushfood including meat and plants. The elders passed down to their children what to eat and when, where to find it and how to hunt or harvest it.

Devils Marbles

I am in photographic heaven and climb to the lookout which is only 300m along a meandering pathway. To the south of Karlu Karlu is a significant cultural area and no photographs are allowed in this area. There are plenty of other amazing photographic opportunities and I am stunned at the natural balancing act of each and every formation. Absolutely breathtaking scenery. I couldn’t pass up the selfie opportunity!

The Stuart Highway is a long straight highway and surprisingly in very good condition. The scenery is the same every day, red dirt verges, tufts of spindly grass, native trees and red ant hills are becoming far more prominent. Travellers are stopping and putting clothing on them, it becomes an amusement.

Worthy of a mention is Morphett Creek, the first creek we have seen in quite sometime with water in it. Not actually flowing but water that doesn’t look stagnant.

We are camped at the Renner Springs Desert In and it’s pricey at $28 for an unpowered site. The amenities are old however clean and the staff are friendly and we have a patch of grass to park on. There really is a lot they could do with this place in regards to general upkeep. There’s a pool, but one look at it and it’s forget about it!

We spend most of the afternoon inside as the flies are a real nuisence. The geese, rooster and chickens are hanging around the van so Andrew can’t help himself and feeds them our stale bread. We had to come out for sunset as it was pretty special. Andrew is teaching me to play Jin Rumi as there is no mobile or tv reception we play well into the night.

Today’s travel was 260km.

Wildlife: Dead cows, eagles, horses, Willy wagtails, chickens, roosters, corellas, cattle, peacock, geese, minor birds, flies.

Day 104: Renner Springs to Daly Waters

Neither of us has had much sleep. The wind has blown up overnight and the trucks coming and going has kept us awake. There are some places you want to stay forever and there are some that you just can’t wait to leave. This is one of them. We are on the road by 8.30am.

Yesterday we passed a guy on a push bike on the highway. He was camped at Renner Springs overnight. He must have been up early this morning as we have passed him again 40k to the north. Imagine the impact of the road trains passing him.

The scenery is slightly different today with a chocolate coloured dirt along the verge and the trees are more dense and much taller. Some are full of yellow flowers. There are clumps of pinky purple flowers growing along the edge of the roadside.

We arrive at Daly Waters around lunch time and there are vans lined up along the roadside. There’a an old helicopter perched on top of an old tin shed, there are tin bushranger sculptures and an old army truck parked up beside the pub. Then there is the iconic Daly Waters Pub.  Stepping inside to pay for a site, the bar is covered in business cards and coasters pinned in every nook and cranny. There are bras, nickers, shirts & hats hanging everywhere.

The staff are all backpackers and really friendly. The guy serving me immediately new Mission Beach as he’d done a couple of days banana picking in Innisfail. The campground is spacious, mostly gravel with a green spot for tents. Powered sites in the middle and unpowered around the perimeter. The amenities look like little dongas each with a toilet and shower. We take an unpowered site for $20.

All set up so we head over to the pub for lunch and a cold beverage. Andrew has a steak sandwich and I can’t go past the Barra burger. They were both huge and the chips were yummy.

I’m watching the cowboy across the street get his horse out of the float. He’s a short guy, jeans, checkered shirt, Akubra and bare feet. He rides bareback over to the pub, dismounts and tells us Elvis is keen for a beer. The barmaid leads Elvis to the bar and there is no chance I am missing this photo op! Elvis was under age so there was no chance he was getting served a drink, he had to settle for tickling the ivories on the piano. Where else would you see a horse in a bar playing a piano! The great Aussie outback that’s where! Another highlight of our adventures, one never to be forgotten.

There a lot of Queensland number plates in the park and our neighbours are from Ingham, what a small world. They are doing the real outback along the Savannah Way and then off to the Gibb River. They are travelling with their boxer Sally, she’s three and a real cutie. There is a lot of dog sniffing going on between her and Cinta.

Dinner is out under the stars after dark, after the flies have said goodnight. We listen to the music from the pub, it’s live music every night and it’s our type of music from the 60-80’s. What a great night and not a bad sunset either.

Wildlife: Eagles, dead cows, dead kangaroos, crows, minor birds, flies.

Day 105:  Daly Waters to Mataranka

Leaving Daly Waters it’s 27 degrees at 9.00am and there is plenty of fresh road kill on the highway. Three dead cows, it must have been a bad road strike.  Todays drive is 184km.

We’re staying at the Bitter Springs Cabins & Camping ground on the banks of the Little Roper River.  It’s a large campground with many sites nestled in the rainforest.  The staff here are really friendly and the amenities are really rustic.  We feel right at home and choose a lovely site.  We’re offered a 10% discount to stay for 3 nights.  The first thing we notice when setting up is that there are not many flies!  The fly nets can stay in the car.

We can’t wait to explore the thermal springs, make sure you tune in next week to see what we get up to.

Wildlife: Dead cattle, dead kangaroos, crows, eagles, hawks, cattle, frogs, kangaroos, warblers, grasshoppers.

Week 15 total expenses:  $ 830.78, under budget!

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That’s a wrap for Week 15 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

Week 14 | Uluru to Alice Springs

Day 92: Uluru to Erldunda

Departing Uluru it’s 26 degrees and we are heading back to the roadhouse at Erldunda for the night.  There are not many options for caravans between Uluru and Erldunda which is why we have decided to travel the 246km again.

We have a leak in our water pipe, it’s only a pin hole however it needs to be repaired as soon as possible.  We spend the afternoon googling caravan repairers in Alice Springs and find a mobile service.  We’ve organised for Jason to come out to the park when we arrive tomorrow.

I’ve come down with a head cold so the remainder of the day is a rest day.  Later in the afternoon we are relaxing outside and another caravanner pops by for a chat.  What a small world, he is from Kelso and lives just around the corner from my sister.

Wildlife:  Dead kangaroos, crows, emus, camels, rooster, No 28 parrots.

Day 93: Erldunda to Alice Springs

We are up early today and leaving Erldunda by 8.00am so that we arrive at Alice Springs in plenty of time to meet Jason the mobile caravan repair man by 1.00pm.  The journey is 202km. We travel between 80-90km an hour as Andrew feels comfortable towing at that speed and we are not in any hurry to get to any destination.  We are often passed by other caravans, many vehicles and the massive road trains.

Today we are shocked by two incidences that we encounter on the highway.  The first is a single axle caravan that overtakes us and it’s managed to get a real sway up.  They are obviously travelling too fast and single axles tend to sway a lot more than a double axle.  The second is a truck that overtakes us and watching him in the distance he slowly moves to the right hand side of the road and travels there for quite some time before moving back to the left hand side.  He was too far away to zoom my camera in to get his number plate.  He was obviously fatigued and needed to take a rest break.  It’s a startling reality of how easy an accident can happen.

As usual, we have found the Temple Bar Caravan Park through Wikicamps.  The reviews are really amazing and we are looking forward to arriving and meeting Trish and Molly (the caboodle).  The park and the service does not disappoint.  When you arrive at the entrance you are instructed to call a mobile number.  Trish arrives on her golf cart aptly named; “My Office” and Molly is by her side on the seat.  We booked for 4 nights but decided on the journey that we would like to stay for 7 nights so that I can recouperate and catch up on some work.  No problem at all and Trish escorts us around the park to our site.

The sites are large, beautiful green grass and drive through.  Perfect.  The bonus is that when you stay 7 nights you only pay for 6.  This park is a hidden gem about 15km south of Alice Springs and it’s only $24 per night.  Power is an extra charge and averages out about $2-$3 a day.  The amenities are spotlessly clean and there are many shady trees at each site.

We are all set up and a quick text to Jason to advise we have arrived.  Jason is here in no time and fixes our pipe within a few minutes for $20.  What a bargain.  Andrew now knows what spare part to pick up and how to fix it himself.

Wildlife:  Emus, dead kangaroos, horses, eagles, crows, No 28 parrots, galahs, kangaroos

Day 94 – 99 Alice Springs

We are both looking forward to having a week here at the park and this morning we head into town to restock the pantry.  We have been advised where to park and to be alert of our own personal safety whilst in town.  We notice that most of the buildings have high fences topped with barbed wire and there are a lot of cctv cameras.  We felt so safe at the park and yet feel uneasy in the township.  We are both glad that we chose to stay out of town rather than at one of the parks in town.

We’ve met some of the other caravanners at the park and are enjoying ‘happy hour’ exchanging stories of our travels.  There are quite a few residents at the park and they are all extremely friendly too, it’s a great atmosphere out here and very relaxing.

Some of the locals advise us to take a drive up to Anzac Hill to get your bearings and to take in the 360 degree view of Alice Springs. It really is amazing.

Anzac Hill Lookout

There are some creative art works around the town of Alice including a recent wall mural by Jimmy DVate depiciting the life cycle of the Yeperenye caterpillar.  It was painted on the wall of the Yeperenye Shopping Centre during the Festival of Street Art in October 2018.

It’s time to have a look around the gorges outside of Alice and the first one that we visit is Ormiston Gorge, 135km to the west, travelling along the West MacDonnell Ranges.  It’s a very scenic drive, however, there has been a recent bush fire through the whole area and it’s devastating to see the loss of flora in the area.

Arriving at Ormiston Gorge we decide to have morning tea in the kiosk hoping to escape the onslaught of flies.  The kiosk is air-conditioned and after waiting at the counter for some time we are finally attended to by an elderly gentleman.  His wife is busy making coffee for another couple and he apologises for the wait.  He is a real character and finally our order is taken (red or blue jam?) and no payment required at this point.  It takes some time to get our coffee and scones and she explains that they are flat whites as she doesn’t do froth!  They are clearly out of their depth in the kiosk as several others arrive and the service is a bit like waiting for a bus…we queue up again to pay and wait…

A short walk of about 500 metres along a paved pathway and the gorge is in sight.  We are told that there is water all year round and at the southern end it is up to 14 meters deep.  The colours in the rock formations are absolutely amazing, the water is freezing cold and the flies are in full force.

Panorama of Ormiston Gorge

Heading further west another 4kms is Glen Helen Gorge which protects a significant waterhole along the Finke River which is home to nine species of native desert fish.  The walk in is sandy, rocky, hot and fly nets are the new fashion accessory of our trip.  The gorge is breathtaking, spectacular walls of jagged ochre coloured rock with the occasional tree jutting out from the most obscure places.

The gorge offers powered van sites, camping and backpacker accommodation.  We couldn’t imagine staying here as you would have to spend most of your day indoors away from the flies.

Glen Helen Gorge

Heading back towards Alice is Ellery Creek Big Hole, the largest permanent waterhole in Central Australia. Thousands of years of massive floods have carved out this waterhole, which is recognised as an internationally significant geological site.  A short walk in along a lovely paved path way and another spectacular gorge appears right before your eyes.

Standley Chasm is next on our “to do” list.  Aboriginal owned and operated a fee of $12 is payable, $10 for seniors.  The chasm has been gouged into tough quartzite by the floods that, over millions of years have surged down a narrow tributary of the Finke River system.  The craggy slopes rise 80 metres above the floor, it’s a spectacular sight.

Standley Chasm operates a cafe as a training facility for local indigenous families.  Camping is available and there are picnic tables and bbq areas.  We chose to have coffee and it was somewhat disappointing when our coffee was delivered with overflow all down the sides of the mugs, an apology was given but still placed on our table with no saucer or serviette to wipe up the mess.

In January of this year (2019) fires burned across a 100km length of the West MacDonnell Ranges from Alice Springs right out to Ormiston Gorge.  Whilst it is devasting to see it is equally pleasing to note the new growth that is sprouting up already.

Panorama of the walk in

A short distance from town is Simpsons Gap, with a visitors centre, picnic areas and several short walks.  It is one of the most prominent gaps in the West MacDonnell Ranges.  We were fortunate to spot a black footed rock wallaby sitting high on the rock face.  Swimming is not permitted in the waterhole here.

We have been unfortunate this week to have a stone chip in our windscreen which has travelled over the Easter break to a large crack.  Our stay in Alice has been extended by a further two days so that we can have it repaired before heading further north.  The caravan has been washed and Andrew is pictured below showing off the new tow vehicle – I don’t think it’s going to make the grade somehow!

We’ve made some great friends here at the park and it was sad yesterday to bid them farewell as they head off on the rest of their journey.  I’m sure we will meet up again sometime to reminisce about our travels.  We all celebrated with a combined lamb roast buffet dinner where we all contributed to the meal.  Andrew was in charge of the lamb roast and it was cooked to perfection!  We had an awesome night, great company, delicious food and a few cold beverages too.

Back on the road again tomorrow to another unknown destination.

Wildlife:  Kangaroos, No 28 Parrots, galahs, black footed rock wallaby, black cockatoos, warblers.

Week 14 total expenses:  $693.02, under budget!

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That’s a wrap for Week 14 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!