Blog of our trip to Darwin in 2011

Written by Pamela.

For conciseness we have left out the photos, these may be viewed on our photo pages for 2011 

and you may purchase a full copy of the blog with photos as a pdf file in our store.

The story of our three-month trip to Darwin 2011.

We drove up the North Coast Pacific Highway to Byron Bay, and then into Queensland to Hervey Bay where we took a flight over Fraser Island.Then north to Agnus Waters, Lady Musgrave Island, Mackay and Rockhampton, Airlie Beach and Townsville.   Finally turning west, we thentravelled to Charters Towers, Cloncurry, Mt Isa, Katherine, and famous outbacksettlements on the way to Darwin. After some time in Darwin we ventured intoWestern Australia as far as Kununurra and Lake Argyle. On the return journey wetook the inland road to Alice Springs calling to see friends at BrokenHill, Hay and Griffith.

Arriving at Hervey Bay 15-16th June 2011

In early June 2011 we left home and drove north stopping at Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Brisbane and then went further north to HerveyBay, where we visited local sites including Rainbow Beach and Inskip Point from where the barges carry 4WD vehicles to Fraser Island.  4WD vehicles alsotravel up and down the beach at low tide, but if they leave it too late they can get caught when the tide comes in.

Hervey Bay and surrounds 18th June 2011

We have had a nice rest in Harvey Bay. The days became sunny and the nights cold.  We flew over Fraser Island for a change, and saw theMantra Resort where we previously stayed, sharing the days with friends at a“Bird Conference”.  The lagoon next to one of the “Sand Blows” is the onlyone in the World next to sand blows. You may have to look for it.  Thelong sandy strips around Fraser Island are 4-WD paradise. 

We visited by air most of the lakes, lagoons, sand blows, coastline, resorts,and forests.  I saw 15 Dugongs – once flying over and on the wayback.  They leave a sandy/muddy trail behind them and therefore are easyto spot.  Saw one whale for a second or two. 

We had a good look at Hervey Bay by plane, including ourcaravan park in the trees, on the beach.  It is a city of perhaps 60,000people, but quiet if the whales are not around. 

Hervey Bay to Rockhampton 24th June 2011

Hervey Bay is a quiet place when the whales are not about. Wewent to Rainbow Beach and to Inskip Point and to a beautiful Sand Bar. Afterthat we discovered The Water Works, which was just a short distance from ourcaravan park.  It is a real family affair.  Its primary purpose is totake all the storm water from the drains and transform it into pure, cleanwater, which is safe to enter the ocean.  In this process, some of thestorm water is used to run this family fun park.  Even grannies and babiescan enjoy it. 

You can ride the waves on a surfboard or float, you can havegreat buckets of water – as large as 44 gallon drums poured down on you when ittips over, you can stand under and run through a host of other water activitiesand sometimes they have up to 4,000 people there on a single day, all in thewater and having fun.  There is no charge to enter this fun park, just $5to ride the wave machine on a surfboard.  It was a great surprise to seeit.  It is right on the beach of course.

We could not miss Agnes Waters and 1770.  I had heardso much about them from Sandra.   Our park was in the bush, but theone on the beach is a beauty if you book and can get into it.  1770 iswhere Captain Cook brought the Endeavour in for a “look see”.   It must have looked magic to him as it did to us.  Few people live in1770, but it is a wonderful place and we enclose a sunset from the lookout. 

The following day we hopped on a small fast boat, about 40passengers and we went for a 2 hr trip to Lady Musgrave Island to snorkel onthe lowest reef in the Great Barrier Reef.   As we looked out of thesemi submersibles and glass bottom boats, we could not believe the beauty we werein for, once we donned the flippers and mask and dived into the warm waters, 21degrees.  The reef was alive with coloured corals and fish, so it wasworth the effort, despite the temperatures having been quite cold on themainland.  Graeme took the seagull shots from the platform on the reef andhad fun doing that.  

We walked over Lady Musgrave Island which has strange treeson it, which have seeds that land on the local birds until their feathers areso gummed up, they can’t fly off, then they die and make fertilizer for thetrees.  Nature will have its way.  We saw some of the birds andchicks running around. The colours of the waters around the island were justlike all the gorgeous pictures you see.  This was a special day.  Wealways love the reef best of all.

We drove to Gladstone and photographed a sunset from a locallookout.

To my dear friends who think we are seeing all thisbeautiful scenery from the hands of the Creator, this is true, but we are alsoseeing the terrible devastation caused by mankind especially at Gladstone andMount Morgan today.  

Gladstone is the most “go ahead” city you can spot up thisway. The suburbs are set in bushland, the waterfront is amazing. The harbourships mined products and processed metals off to all parts of theglobe.    I do not quite know how to describe the devastationcaused by the industry and its processing and carrying on amidst beautifulwaterways, harbours, rivers, power plants and huge dams as big as SydneyHarbour to run everything.

Now at Rockhampton, 100 km north of Gladstone, we decided tovisit and tour ex- “success story” Mount Morgan.  Once again, thedevastation is almost unbelievable.  From the 1880’s and onward it was thebiggest town going. Maybe one of the biggest in Australia way back when.  Today, of course we did have a most interesting tour with a great tourguide.  Interesting to learn all about it, but to see what is left wouldalmost make you weep.  A great huge open cut, with 40 feet of polluted andpoisoned water in it.  It is a kilometre or more long.  It is like anugly scar on the countryside with all the old mining equipment andhistory.  The famous manager of the time, Walter Hall and his wife Elizafounded the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for medical (cancer) research,and this fund is still operating today from one of the Universities inMelbourne.

Queensland contrasts 29th June 2011

Gladstone Harbour is a mixture of industry and beauty, I donot want to give the impression it is all industry, because that would not beright.   Also, some were wondering about what kind of country wesee.   We are pleased that the Great Dividing Range has travelledwith us most of the way and continues beyond here and at least up toCairns. 

We see mostly sugar cane growing here and the plants arebeing harvested now and have beautiful feathery grey/mauve flowers and areabout seven feet tall.

We are at Airlie Beach and have had heavy rain and wind thatkeeps us awake at night, but the days are not too bad, at least, they are notcold. Tonight, we looked at Shute Harbour where all the boats go out to theReef Islands. 

Although it was coming dark and was shrouded in mist andcloud, yet the beauty is undeniable.  We hope to catch it off-guard earlytomorrow morning for some beautiful pictures of the harbour and its attendantislands.  This surely is one of the most beautiful places we know inAustralia.

Airlie Beach to Ingham 1st to 3rd July 2011

Graeme says the first thing to say is that we foundParadise.    It was at Bowen.  We all know about Mangos andBowen, but that is not a fraction of the story.  Bowen seems to be on apeninsular and has ocean and beaches on three sides.  The first thing wefound was the large fishing fleet in the harbour.  Something to see. It is a big fishing town and Cod is the fish running at present.  They goto sea for a week and come back in with the catch, which they export all overthe World.  The town has a big Aboriginal population, who all were lovelyto us.  They surely found the most magnificent place to live.  Thebeaches were not easy to photograph, due to narrow roads and nowhere to stopwith the van, so they were little “grab shots”, with Police everywhere, makingsure nobody stopped where they shouldn’t.  We’ll go back there again for abetter look.  Maybe around Mango time…….     

On Sunday 3rd July we took off for one of thenational parks towards Ingham, which is the next main town before Cairns. We saw so many lovely things there and hopefully our pictures will show yousome of the things we found.

On Monday 4th July we head west to Charters Towers, sohere we go on the long adventure to Cloncurry, Mt Isa, and famous outbacksettlements on the way to Darwin.  There are long distances between eachstop. 

Northern Territory: 5th - 7th July 2011

We travelled from Townsville via Mt Isa, which is on theway, to Katherine for five full days covering 450 to 550 km per day tocover the “Outback”.  We stayed at a variety of places, like BarklyHomestead and now we are at Springvale Homestead, Katherine, which dates to1878.

Katherine is about 350 km south of Darwin.  Before wearrive in Darwin, we shall visit Katherine Gorge and Kakadu, which are on theway to Darwin.  At Springvale, the huge Katherine River flows along a border;and between the river and the campsites is a beautiful lagoon full of turtlesand magnificent, huge, pink water lilies.  It is incredibly special. 

The old homestead is famous in the history of thedevelopment of Katherine and the property was given to Giles, who managedputting in the Overland Telegraph so long ago.  They say there is acrocodile in the lagoon as well, there certainly is in the river next door tothe lagoon.    

There are hot mineral springs around the area.  Wefound the first one at Mataranka and the beauty of the place took our breathaway.  That place is famous due to “We of the Never Never” so we boughtthe book and DVD.   Also bought the book about the history of DalyWaters.  Apparently, the flood waters stay around there for a long time inthe wet, hence the name. 

We liked the signpost at Daly Waters that read,“Angle parking – any angle” and that was the Daily Waters Pub.  We had anunpowered site there, as the Territory is flooded with guests from other statesright now.  It is a bit of a struggle to get somewhere to stop withoutbooking up first.  

Here at Springvale Homestead, we have our own lovelyswimming pool which is filled with warm mineral water to swim in.  It islike a little piece of paradise here.   Hot springs abound inKatherine.  There are very many Aboriginal folk living in Katherine. We have finally found some warm weather, about 27 degrees today, very pleasant,and even the nights are mild.

Katherine Gorge 10th July 2011

Sunday night here at Katherine.    We got alate start after Graeme got up at 4 am to photograph the Springvale Homesteadwith the brilliant stars above.   Well, it did not go as well as he planned,and he came back kind of semi frozen.  

After our late start (the sun goes to bed early and gets up extremelylate here) we drove the 40 km to Katherine Gorge.  Firstly, we took ahelicopter along the canyons that make up Katherine Gorge.  We also did alanding out there in the middle of the valley in which Katherine Gorge issituated.   It is kind of hard to imagine a gorge in the middle of alarge valley, but that’s the story.

In 1998 during flood time the Katherine River was so highand flowing at 30 mph that it could fill Sydney Harbour every ninehours.   It was way deep, like 40 feet deep.  There are 13canyons all kind of joined to make up the Katherine Gorge, so after flying overthe Gorge, we then went in the boat.   When you can’t get through thegorge at a certain point, you have to get off and walk to another boat to takeyou on further.  

Katherine was the daughter of a wealthy man who was fundingthe exploratory trips of the early explorers and Katherine was hisdaughter.     Wow, I wonder if she ever got to see themassive river named in her honour!  The Katherine River is like a boundaryof this property we are staying on.  The property is incredibly old andhas a great history, but its most beautiful feature is its fantastic lagoon andwe showed you pictures of the water lilies and tortoises yesterday.  It is going to be hard to leave here, but tomorrow we will be pulling out earlyfor Kakadu

Kakadu, 12-13 July 2011

We spent sunrise in Kakadu yesterday on the water, and todaywe took an 11 am cruise, so we had more light.  We hope you enjoy thepictures.  On both cruises we saw lots of crocodiles, but today they werejust there, almost posing for us and swimming beside us.  We mainly saw“salties” today.  They have a good bit of a yellow/brownish tone on theirbodies, indicating they have spent a lot of time is salt water.  We mustbelieve the tales we hear from the guides, though each one has a slightlydifferent story to another guide.  They obviously know their birds verywell and we saw many thousands of them, some visiting from Africa and obviouslyenjoying themselves, while a croc lies right beside them.  They seemunafraid or maybe even unaware.

The wetlands here are similar in some ways to many otherwetlands around the World.   In many places they are now being minedor used for farming, so thankfully ours are still here and protected for us allto enjoy.   Yesterday our guide saw a buffalo in the wetlands, but wedid not see one today.  The name “Yellow River” came from the buffalomessing up the river bottom with their walking and grazing and hence the waterwas turning yellow from their efforts to graze.  The other river we wereon was the Alligator River.   It was misnamed by an explorer, but thename has stuck.  The day is quite warm and still.  We look forward toa nice swim in the pool this afternoon, then off to Darwin tomorrow, early.

Darwin - Berry Springs, Territory Wildlife Park, 20thJuly 2011

Our days at Darwin are ending.  I think we are ready tomove on, though, of necessity, we must leave a few things to see anothertime.  People drive straight up from Melbourne and Adelaide and just stayhere for winter.   There seems to be plenty of things to do at night,so they try to keep the locals happy.   Our temperatures are 20 to 32each day. 

Last night I learnt how to choose a gum tree with a termitenest up high, where the termites are eating out a branch.  The rightbranch can be stripped of its bark, the termites removed, smooth it over, addsome bees wax mouth piece, put a coat of bondcrete down the middle of the woodto seal it and there you have your didgerie-doo.  They made one in frontof our eyes in 30 minutes and my, it sounded great.  Now I am alwayslooking for possible didgerie-doo timber up in the trees.

Yesterday we went to Berry Springs to find a WildlifePark.  We turned in a bit soon and found ourselves at the Berry Springsreserve, where the refreshing cool springs simply spring forth from the groundand turn into a series of very large pools of fresh water, joined together byseveral narrow and shallow waterways.  The pools were as large as regularswimming pools and there was plenty of room for everybody to swim in any poolthey chose.   The proprietor of the Kiosk told us the water was 16metres deep in its deepest part.  I was wearing my goggles and could seethe beautiful sun’s rays reaching down deep into the pool.  It was totallyrefreshing and made me think of the water flowing out from the throne of God,what a fountain that one must be.  I asked the Kiosk man where the springswent to after they left the reserve (he was a historian) and he told me howthey join the Darwin River and head out to the coast, mingling the salt andfresh.    We have been told that due to the 3 metres of rainDarwin received in the wet this year, that the massive rivers are mostly freshwater and not salt, even though they are coming in from the coast.

The history he shared was tantalizing, I will have to lookinto it further.   Darwin used to be called Palmerston when it wasjust a dot on the map and had a wharf where ships could off-load cargo for thegold fields.  The gold field towns were huge in those days and thematerials needed by the gold seekers were floated down these huge rivers fromPalmerston, way inland to where the bigger gold towns were.  There arequite a few fantastic books on all the history.

After our swim, we went next door to the Territory WildlifePark which was beautifully done and served wonderful fresh food.  Thehosts were well trained and extremely helpful.  Little “trains” take youaround to all the different “stations”.   There was so much to see,birds, aquarium and coral, wetlands, ponds with fish, native wildlife hoppingaround, nocturnal houses and a wonderful indoor aviary that went on and onforever.  We had a great day.   We hope you enjoy ourphotos. 

Darwin - Berry Springs and Fogg Dam 22nd July 2011

Friday:  We decided to go and have another swim atBerry Springs on behalf of all of you who loved the look of that place. We tried to get some different pictures, so you can imagine it.  Wecommenced in the water at the entrance of the waterfall and then we swam andfloated all the way down through a series of pools until we went as far as wedared.  At that point it had opened out into a huge fresh water river andwe have not seen anybody going on further.    The small joins inthe waterways turned out to be about ten feet wide or more, and about three orfour feet deep.  With my goggles on I could see all the rocks and pebblesin those little joining places and I also saw a big black and yellow tropicalflat fish and he looked beautiful.  Lots of little tropical fish aswell.  I can assure you it is the most peaceful place, most of the time,just heavenly.After a good swim we did some exploring and found the BlackmoreRiver, which was a surprise, then we drove to Fogg Dam to view the wetlands andbirds.  Included are a few photos for you. 

Lake Argyle and Kununurra 26-30th July 2011

Lake Argyle is on the site of the old Durack homestead andwas the brain child of Kim Durak, who also gave the region its name –“Kimberley”.  Lake Argyle is formed by the damming of the Ord River. There is a giant spillway, which can fill Sydney Harbour in just 4hours in a wet year like this one.  They had 3 metres of rain in the mostrecent wet season.  

Underneath Lake Argyle is a mountain range and only thetallest mountains can be seen jutting up out of the water.  We saw 16-footcrocs on Lake Argyle.   It is a huge dam, for the purpose ofirrigation water and electricity generation.   The surrounding rockywalls to the dam are red and extremely interesting and dramatic.  Wecruised Lake Argyle and the Upper Ord River. 

Kununurra is quite an interesting place with a population ofabout 7,000 it is also the site of HCJB, a Christian Broadcasting Station,broadcasting into SE Asia.  Our friends, Mary and Howard Jones have beencoming up for three years to help erect the towers and assist in getting theprograms into the right countries.  We will go over and visit the stationtomorrow for “open” Sunday. 

They also grow bananas and sell banana jam or spread, it is delicious.   Many of the wonderful things to do near here are on The Gibb Road, which can bea difficult place to negotiate, so Graeme does not want to drive to theseplaces, instead, we will come back and do them from Perth, on another trip,where the road is better.

Yesterday we went to Wyndham. An Aboriginal town with agreat historical past.  It is a port and has seen many kinds of goodsshipped out of Australia.  The Cambridge Gulf cuts a huge swag out of theAustralian Continent right here, take a look on a map.  We are in the NEcorner of WA.  The cutting is so wide it is mind blowing and it issurrounded with massive miles of mud flats on both sides.  It is hard toget your head around the size of the gulf.  Five of our rivers empty intothe gulf: King, Ord, Durack, Forrest and Pentecost and you can see thememptying their contents there.  It was a bit of a hazy day for us to seewell.  Just think Very Big.  We also did some 4 W-Driving to see somefalls, springs, creeks and watery landmarks, as well as Parry’s Wetlands andBird Hide, where we had a wonderful time photographing the birds.  TheHighlight was visiting Parry’s Resort, in the middle of nowhere, where we hadlunch and a very funny waitress to serve us.   Her husband was thechef there.  They use all the food in season from their garden and evenhad food that Graeme could eat.  What a joy.  I also picked up a newChristmas dessert recipe.

On Monday we have opted for flying over the BungleBungles.   Soon we hope to be in the Keep National Park on the stateborder between NT and WA. 

Lake Argyle, Bungle Bungles, Jacana, Grotto 1st August2011

We discovered The Grotto while driving to Wyndham on TheCambridge Gulf.  Situation:  Sixty kms from Kununurra.  On thesurface of the land it just looks like a big hole in the ground.  If youwalk down 140 un-railed steps and climb over some rocks, you will find thiscool gorge.  Some people were swimming in it.  In the wet, there aremagnificent waterfalls falling into this underground chasm from the surroundinghills and the water would be many metres deep.  

Yesterday we called in to HCJB, a non-denominationalChristian company sending the gospel message and other helpful information intoSE Asia, India and the South Pacific.  Everything is done by volunteersfrom building the towers to managing the stations and the program dispersal tothe right country at the right time.  God has provided many miracles toset up this station.  It is received on short-wave radio on smallradios. They also grow bananas and mangos at HCJB and would love somevolunteers to help do all kinds of jobs.

The Jacana bird is also known as “The Jesus Bird”, becauseit seems to walk on water.  Its finely spread toes allow its weight to bedistributed so gently on lily pads and sea grasses, that it appears to walk onthe water. 

Finally, a flight to the Bungle Bungles.  This alsoincluded The Argyle Diamond Mine - the richest diamond mine in the World. The workers work for 3 weeks on site then go home for one week.  Half thepeople employed are Aboriginal, or this is at least a goal of thecompany.  One lady told me she had bought 5 houses in 2 years since herhusband has been working on that mine.  She plants Chinese Sandalwoodtrees, which is a major industry in Kununurra.  These trees are parasites,so they have to be grown with other trees.  It takes 15 years fromplanting to harvest.  In the pictures you will also see Lake Argyle thatwe flew over today, the land forms, the dam wall of Lake Argyle, produce grownon the Ord River Scheme, and the Lake Argyle caravan park where we spent twodays enjoying the dam. 

Final Days at Kununurra and back to Victoria River -2nd-4th August 2011

Yesterday, 3rd August, we took a 4WD bus into ElQuestro.   It was a most enjoyable day and we were delighted to be insomebody else’s vehicle instead of our own on the Gibb River Road.  Graeme bravely strode up the gorge to visit Emma Gorge.  A few of uschickened out for one reason or another.  It was quite a climb. 

We saw one lady who apparently broke her arm trying to dothe climb, but she was not in our group, poor soul.  We had fun at ZebedeeFalls.  The ridge in the red, rocky mountains contained a very interestingsurprise, with tall Livistona Palms sheltering a warm spring and everyone hadto find their own little pool to take a dip in the springs.   Thedressing sheds were non-existent, so we were trying to change out on the trailwithout much cover.    

Then we had a lovely lunch at the café and a cruise on theChamberlain Gorge in the afternoon and fed the “spitting fish”.  It wasquite lovely.  El Questro staff served champagne juice and fresh fruit onthe boat.  

In the big wet, the water in the Pentecost River where thehomestead sits, rose 21 metres and they were fortunate that when thefoundations were being washed away, a huge Boab tree got wedged between theground and the floor of the $2,000 per night suite and saved the day. Now, I’d like to know the chances that a huge Boab tree could wedge itself inthat position and save the homestead from washing away.   

Mataranka - 6th August 2011

We chose to come here rather than Katherine, because of thebeautiful springs here.  The water there is warm and there are severalplaces where you can swim.  The one we like has a current and carries you downthe river gently.  We found we can swim against the current without toomuch trouble.    We wore our goggles to do the swim, which givesus such beautiful clarity in the pool.  

We had an insight into another world in there.  Thestream is full of tree roots at various weird angles and vines, lots of smallfish, river shelves, and of course my favourite, lots ofwaterlilies.    If you want to reach out and grab something tohold on to, you will get a handful of waterlilies, which are not muchsupport.  Your head is bobbing along at the same level as the waterlilyflowers.  The water is pristine, but every part of it is covered withlichens which move in the direction of the flow of the water.  

Dad’s take their tiny, small children down there in their armswithout any difficulty.   One lady told me she saw a yellow snake inthere, but since nobody else was worrying, she decided not to worry either andwent in, regardless.   You must use your imagination to see all thelittle naked black children frolicking in the clear springs. 

I saw half of “We of the Never Never” as it showed an hourbefore the advertised time.  However, we do not seem to find it easy tophotograph it, so I got some post cards to show the scene.  At Matarankayou also must imagine the Springs hemmed in by beautiful ancient Livistona andPandanus Palms and Tea Trees, which also like water and are useful to theAboriginal people for making lean-tos.  Not sure how many live that waythese days, but they try to keep their traditions as alive as they can. 

By the way, Katherine also has beautiful Springs, all opento the public to enjoy.  It is all free for everyone.  Katherine has the elegant and enormous Katherine River and Gorge, whileMataranka Springs has The Roper River.  Because we love to swim we enjoythem all, plus Berry Springs, 35 km south of Darwin, they are also a favourite.

The caravan park where we stayed at Mataranka also had a lotof wildlife, peacocks, and 'pet' Barramundi, and the owner put on ademonstration twice a day of feeding them and catching them live with fish,quite spectacular.

Tennant Creek to Alice Springs - 7-8th August 2011

Two long days of driving (about 500 km per day) brought usto Alice Springs.  Naturally, we have beautiful blue skies, but with allthe burning off happening in Alice Springs, and along the route, the sky wassometimes blanked out with smoke and the sun took on a mysterious, glaringmetallic form.  Along the route we saw about 50 or more Army vehicles andall the drivers waved as they hurried past.

Yesterday, after staying overnight at Tennant Creek (wherewe took the photo of the Aboriginal Art centre), we came to the DevilsMarbles. 

There is a National Park dedicated to all these amazingstanding stones, balancing on other stones.  It was right on the track aswe drove along.  Two prayers were answered as we prayed for the wind tostop so we could drive more easily, and it did – straight away and also theusual problem of finding somewhere to stop, as all the parks were full. (Who can blame all the southerners coming up here to escape winter athome).  Well, the Lord found us a pleasant place to stop in Alice close tothe gap between two huge rocky cliff faces. The van park provided $10 dinnersand free drinks and it is quite cheap.

After a gentle beginning to the day, we headed out for theDesert Park.  I took a ride on a scooter as the park looked big and theday was hot, but Graeme did all the walking.  It is a most interestingpark, but all too familiar to us, who spent seven years living in, andexploring the deserts around Broken Hill.  We met many familiar animalsand plants, including flowers of the desert.  It was lovely to see theSturt’s Desert Pea, some with black centres and some with red centres. 

It reminded us of all the ones that used to grow in ourfront garden of our first home in Broken Hill, such a long time ago. We couldgrow nearly anything out there in that wonderful soil.  Graeme spotted thelizard in the garden at the park amongst the lovely desert flowers and both heand I had a ball photographing some of the birds there, some with amazingsongs, like rattling a wire fence or crackling paper, or tramping through theunderbrush, and sing as well.  Clever bird - he posed for my photos for along time.  We could have sent lots more. I took the eagle along the roadas we travelled.

Gorgeous Gorges - West MacDonnell National Park - 11thAugust 2011

We had a wonderful day on Thursday exploring the gorges andchasms from Alice Springs on just two roads.  Larapinta Drive in AliceSprings and Namatjira Drive.  An early morning start found us in thefreshness of dawn at Simpsons Gap, which is scarcely out of AliceSprings.  It was beautiful in the early morning light, but a bit early forgreat photographs, so we called back in the afternoon for some moreshots.  A great start to the day. 

We drove a short distance then to Standley Chasm where wehad to pay the Aboriginal custodians a small entry fee.  It was a greathike up the riverbed to the chasm.  The walls are so high and the gap sonarrow that it was, once again, difficult to get great photos of it, but Graemegot some good shots. 

Ellery Creek Bighole was next.  We had no idea what toexpect.   A beautiful chasm with high red walls and a huge lake ofwater that is very deep. It is surrounded on two sides by white sandy beachesand a great spot for a swim without the fear of crocodiles this far south -breathtaking.  We had lunch there in the delightfully maintained amenities.

Following lunch we found ourselves at the Ochre Pits. This was the biggest surprise.   The beautiful cliffs aremade up of a chalky substance from which the aborigines take their colours usedfor body painting.  The colours were like streams of rainbows. We got some great shots of this expansive and astonishing place.  Wewalked down the wide, dry riverbed to see the coloured cliffs. 

Ormiston Gorge was the next site to visit.  I was there(and most of the other places) last when I was 16.  They were the good olddays, no tarred roads, no amenities.  Ormiston Gorge was such a beautifulplace with so much to photograph that we just stayed for hours and could notleave.  Finally, we made it to Glen Helen Gorge and there was a resortthere - another beautiful spot with a lot of water and fantastic cliffs. 

We had just about run out of tarred road by this, and gotour final shots of the Finke River and it had plenty of water in it and it wassurrounded by mountains, rocks, rills, varying colours, a huge expansive valleythat no camera could ever take it all in at once.   

Alice Springs to Pt Augusta SA 14-18th August 2011

We headed south to Uluru, which is 500 km return off theStuart Highway.  We arrived in time to photograph Ayres Rock and a quickphoto of The Olgas.  You are limited in where you can go.  Dozens ofother snap-happy photographers from every corner of the globe were there totake photos of these two icons.  There is a 45-minute drive from AyresRock to The Olgas.  I climbed the rocks when I was 16, but today theyrequest people not to climb it because so many have died attempting to doso.  It was good to see the new town that has sprung up about 20 km fromthe Rock.  Everything was World Class and clean and upmarket.  Wealso joined the mob to do the sunrise photography.  

We were glad to be on the road the following day and noticedthat the unfenced cattle found their shade in a strange and unexpectedplace.   Beside the road there is sometimes a bit of a red sandycutting, which may be about ¾ of a metre high.  The cattle would lie inthe shady space that was afforded by the sand in the cutting.  This wasthe only shade available for them.   Quite a few of the cattle arerun over when they seek shade so near the roads.  The properties in theoutback are so vast that they are not fenced, so the cattle can wander wherethey like.  You have to keep an eye out for them all the time.

We made our way down the centre to Coober Pedy, on thehighway.  One sight of that place of piles of coloured sand must be checkedout.  So, we stayed the night and went into an old underground mine and anunderground house and church.  The town must be seen to be believed. Theopal lies between 20- and 30-feet depth, but some is much deeper, and thebeautiful stones are caused by being in the ground for a long period. Even seashells can turn into opal.   Must have been a very tough lifein the early days – gouging with a pick, but today much of it is mechanized. Analmighty windstorm with rain struck SA including Coober Pedy and driving inthat wind was hard work.  The huge black storms were raging around us, butwe were directed to places between the fronts, so that was a great blessing, aswe followed the road.    We spent about 3 or more days outthere.  Flowering shrubs were in many places and the territory was oftenquite pretty.  

The opals are found in land that looks flat and almostlifeless.  You could never dream what was buried under the earth.

I had been wanting to see a few more emus and we had 18 ofthem right where we were, close to Womera.  We had a quick look aroundthere and found more emus.  

We had been out of fresh food since handing in our freshfood at the SA border, so we were delighted to find everything we needed at PtAugusta.  It has turned really cold since the windy and wet front came in2 days ago, so we are back into winter woollies again and expect to stay inthem from now on. 

The highlight for me at Pt Augusta was the WADLATAOutback Centre.  We took about 3 hours to take a quick look atit.  It is also the Visitor’s Information Centre as far as Iknow.   Seeing it on the way to the desert lands would be one thing,but to see it after having done all the hard yards, it was just fantastic,World Class and I talked with the Artistic Director who has been therefor 20 years and has won all the awards except the National Award – and isdeserving of that one as well.  So, remember that one. I felt it wassomething akin to Expo for those of you who went there when it was on inBrisbane – a smaller scale of course.

Port Pirie to Broken Hill 21st-23rd August 2011

We took the van to Pt Pirie to have it serviced.  Whilewe were there we took a picnic lunch to Pt Broughton, a little down the SpencerGulf.   The area was deep green – wall to wall wheat at itsbest.  From the Mountains to the sea, quite a beautiful sight.  Weloved it after the dry land we had been on for quite a while.  PtBroughton was a quiet, seaside place with lots of children and it was full ofhistory, dating from the mid-1800s.  There were lots of ancient buildingsand many of the farmers who tried their fortune at farming in the area, leftwith their fingers burnt – especially those who went to the more aridregions.  Nobody counted on years of drought and so little water. Therailways were all so important then and often ran down the middle of the mainstreet.  Just imagine all the towns-folk stopping what they were doing towatch the monstrous steam train roll in to town. No cars on the road in thosedays.

We enjoyed the visit to the old railway station at Pt Pirie– it was fantastically well done out as a museum – but dusty.  It is nearthe waterfront.  There were several changes in the gauges of the railwaylines over the years and one of the major platforms left over, has recentlybeen turned into the local library and tourist information office.  It isall built on the railway platform, but you would never know it when you areinside - it is fantastic and is gently curving around a bend.  A beautifulaffair all in all.   We saw a 5 m shark which was found right at PortPirie where the children swim.  He was stuffed, but such a size.

Driving from Peterborough to Broken Hill today we spottedabout 34 emus all near the road, though they do not make terrific subjects forphotos because we are driving along at a rate of knots as we take theirpicture.  Graeme and I were both surprised that neither of us couldidentify much with Broken Hill as we have not been here for about 38years. 

Broken Hill - Hay - and Griffith, and Home 25th - 31stAugust 2011

Thank you for sharing our beautiful holiday trip withus.  We had quite a few days in Broken Hill.  I couldremember the street names, but not much of the town at first, but it does nottake long to remember where everything is.   The “Line oflode” still runs through the city and it is 38 years sincewe were there and nothing much hadchanged except Woolworths had built a small shopping complex.  

When we left Broken Hill, our warm weather ran out, andGriffith was 1 degree, but ended up with plenty of sunshine, but not too muchwarmth.  The Murrumbidgee River has been in fullflood since the rains and it isquite pretty.   The farms were looking brilliant withbeautiful crops of wheat and Canola.  The place truly shines like abeautiful jewel.   We visited friends, Yvonne andWayne who are trying to get their Seed Crushing Plant up andrunning.  It was a huge investment made before the drought arrived 12years ago, but it stayed unused all through the drought. We also visitedthe large new church.  

Griffith is full of multi-million-dollar wineriesthese days.  We called by to see lots of friends all over theplace and were given a warm and loving welcome from many friends from thepast.   We took a nostalgic look over CSIRO and we had agreat tour of the place.  The town has doubled in size, as far as thebusiness premises go.   I do not know of any other town thatcould do that during a 12-year drought!  

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