Travelling around Australia in a motorhome. A story of our travels starting from NSW then through Queensland, across to Northern Territory and Western Australia, then to South Australia, Victoria and finally across the seas to Tasmania. We have enjoyed everywhere we have visited and look forward to setting off again in our motorhome.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Alice Springs 22 - 25 June 2006

Went over to the roadhouse in the morning to have a look at Dinky Dingo who sings and plays the piano - not very well, but better than either of us! Quite a bit of fun!
Set off for Alice Springs and camped at the local showground. Alice was different from what we had imagined – a lot greener and more interesting then the country towns we had visited. A surprise for us came when our friend Natalie returned a message to say that she had just arrived in Alice on Friday morning after finishing her volunteer work in an Aboriginal Community School at Yuendumu 300k from Alice. We went for coffee in Todd Mall and we suddenly thought we were back in Newtown - it was good to catch up and compare cold symptoms!
Saturday was still full on cold symptoms and birthday for Heather. Although not feeling well we had a quiet but enjoyable day. Visited the Arid Botanical Gardens in the morning and had lunch at the Royal Flying Doctor Service for lunch. Bought "The Saturday (Sydney) Morning Herald" and nearly died when we realised it cost $5.70. Last one until we get back to NSW. The Weekend Australian is $3.50 if available. We also read the local papers that have lots of articles on all the Aboriginal matters. The issues here are very complex and again alcohol seems to be at the root of many problems.
Road safety advice #4 – brought to you by our sponsors ‘Al’ Ca ‘Col’. When driving in the outback do not assume the bundle of clothes on the road is a bunch of rags and run over it. Seriously we were driving around Alice when Peter encountered what he first thought was a big bundle on our side of the road that looked like a carpet that had fallen off a truck. As we got close, to avoid running it over, we moved over and slowed, only to find it was a man lying flat on his back on the road. We stopped the car and helped him on to the side. Afterwards we asked some of the locals what they would have done and they all said that it is best to leave him there and drive around him. They said some have become aggressive when aroused or their mates have come along and harassed the driver. It is very sad to see but no one seems to have any answers.
The Aboriginal culture is very strong around here – as evidenced by the use of their own language, their strong attachment to their family and community and their desire to work out their own solutions to their problems.

Natalie and Heather

Stuarts Well 21 June 2006

Left for another long drive on a good road. Stopped along the highway at the turn off to the Henbury Meteorites and detached the 4WD to drive in. This area had a shower of meteorites that hit the desert about 4,000 years ago and created craters up to 30 metres across. Caught up to our new Swiss friends and their son Elvin for the 6th time since Yulara. Stopped at the roadhouse at Stuarts Wells for the night, (another free camp), went for a drink at the bar and had an interesting chat to the yard-man, who kept a number of camels that he hopes to race in the Camel Cup.

Henbury Meteorite Craters

Dinky Dingo - A Howling Success

Mt Ebenezer 20 June 2006

In the morning hiked the 8km walk around the Kings Canyon Rim. It was a very tiring but breathtaking hike. We quickly decided not to complain when we met an elderly couple resting after the first exhausting ascent. We left them, wondering to our selves if they would ever make it - though there seemed no way other way out once you did the first bit. The sandstone has been lifted up and then eroded along east/west and north/south lines, creating pagoda-like temples across the ranges. One of the highlights was visiting the Garden of Eden that was an extra trek to see a creek with permanent water. It was amazing to see plants that were obvious ancient vegetation from a remnant rainforest that once covered central Australia. After we climbed out of that area the elderly couple had caught up!! Other passers had been astonished at the lady’s stamina to be even there! She had quite a noticeable Parkinson’s tremor. Her husband looked more capable though and had to guide her much of the time. It was a very strenuous unstable walk.
Drove on to another free camp in the bush and saw a distant sunset on Mt Connor that was pretty.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Kings Canyon

Heather at Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon 19 June 2006

Finished up at a free campsite about 40 km out of Yulara and awoke to see sunrise over a distant Uluru. Set off after breakfast for the 300km trip to Kings Canyon and arrived after lunch. The caravan park has a monopoly with campgrounds in a national park and charge what they like - $13 a person for a non-powered site. Bloke next to us had 2 kids and paid $52!! Fuel wasn’t cheap either, with diesel $1.90 and petrol $1.79!! There were lots of small children and babies running around and having fun. Saw a dingo sniffing around the campfire and thought of the tragic death of Azaria Chamberlain. The dingoes are very keen to get something to eat. They warned us that our shoes would disappear if we left them outside overnight. Not that we would with all the other crawlies around.

Heather Watching the Sunset


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Uluru 15 - 18 June 2006

Set off early from Kulgera and headed for Uluru. This was a symbolic moment for us as we had always envisaged us looking at Uluru as the sun set and we were finally getting there. We saw a very large monolith and thought it was Uluru, but soon realised it was Mt Conner. Finally saw Uluru about 50km out. Settled into the only campsite at the resort and we were amazed at the number of tourists here (Campsite takes 1200 people and they are full every night lately!). The resort is just like a purpose built town with about 5000 people here (1,500 employees and 3,500 tourists). There is the full range of accommodation including the $1800 a night tent (per couple) inside the national park. Minimum stay is 2 nights! (ie $3,600 for a couple for the weekend!!!!)
Towards sunset we headed off towards Uluru and climbed a hill about 6km away it to watch the sun set. Am writing this as we sip wine and watch the sunset from the top of Jimmy – heaven.

On Friday we visited the Cultural Centre which was fairly informative but found it difficult to find info on the geology which is obviously extraordinary. Luckily we have a library of books with us so we have been able to read about the formation of Uluru. The Aboriginal stories are limited and the detailed stories are only known to the initiated adults. This is disappointing but we do respect this. An interesting statement in the guide from the park states that geology is a western point of view of how Uluru and Kata Tjuta formed and that they have a different belief.
We then walked around the base of Uluru which was about a 9 k flat trek that revealed lots more than we expected - it was everything we hoped and lots more. It is like a big beautiful animal with a shale shell and soft under belly bits. You can see how all the stories were made. We were a bit tired at the end and attributed this to stopping all the time to take 180 photos! We will have to delete a lot but the drama of Uluru will be lovely to revisit in the images.

Saturday we headed out to Kata Tjuta (Olga’s) that surprisingly is closer to Uluru that we imagined. We did 2 walks, the last one finished in time for us to watch the sunset. This is also a stunning area and was full of surprises, especially the luxuriant hidden valleys. The last walk was called the Valley of the Winds and we now know why. It was not too windy but we would not really like to go through on a true winter, windy day in August!

On Sunday we got up early (ouch! not our usual habit!) to watch the sunrise over Uluru. It is a long drive out and we left in the dark. It was very special to see the massive monolith slowly changing colour as the rays of the sun increased in strength. For us it was better than sunset at Kata Tjuta. We will be hanging around for the sunset at Uluru tonight and will then compare. Most of today we have spent moving around the road at the base of the rock choosing new spots to reflect whilst we catch up on things like this Blog!
The evening sunset last night at Uluru was fun as we decided to set up little party on the roof of our motor home in the big sunset viewing area in the best position. We had the usual cheese and biscuits etc, with champagne. It was very pretty and worth waiting for. The Japanese tourists near by were amused enough to make us a part of their travel memories and took our photos. Left in the evening light full of joy and camped about 40km up the road.

Kulgera 14 June 2006

Said goodbye to Albert and Phil and headed north. Stopped at the border for some photos and then headed into NT. We were really surprised at the change in flora and the geology was remarkable. The rich red soil contrasts with the amazing array of plants in contrasting shapes, sizes and colours From the usual desert country-side of SA we suddenly encountered undulating red sand hills peppered with mulga and desert oak scrubs and coated with orange boulders unmistakably Northern Territory! We went for a long drive today and as there wasn’t anything standing in our way, we got over 400km to Kulgera. Kulgera is a truck stop with the now familiar large road trains stopping there. Free camped with the permission of the road house despite there being a caravan park close by.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Faye's Dugout

Painted Desert

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Coober Pedy 8 – 13 June 2006

On Friday we rested after our trip and checked the motorhome and 4WD. On Saturday we went to see Max (a friend of Alberts), who is an opal cutter. He cut and polished a few opals for us and told us about the rip-offs that people use to cheat tourists – they are very ingenious! Perhaps the worst was the triplets made from a photo of opal!
Still hanging around and catching up on washing and going to interesting places. A drive around always uncovers something new. We have been to see the three under ground churches that are extraordinary. The Serbian Church was very large and impressive with its high ceilings and statues carved out off the walls.
Peter had a full on mad moment and has washed half the motor home by bucket and polished that section. His rationale is he may not see water again until it rains in Melbourne next year! Though to the surprise of the locals, it rained on Friday night and we awoke to a pea soup fog. Nothing is quite as it seems. Set off on Wednesday morning for Alice Springs.

Oodnadatta Track 2

Oodnadatta Track


Oodnadatta 7 June 2006

Excitedly set off to the Oodnadatta Track along the Oodnadatta/Coober Pedy Road – a 200km dirt track! Not sure what to expect, but we were surprised at the variety of country side we encountered. Set off through the Dog Fence and then hit the Moon Plain. Mad Max 3- Beyond Thunder-dome and Ground Zero were filmed there. This is about a 30km area that looks like the moon - it has a thick brown dirt layer that is covered in smooth black ironstone. Then the scenery changed again as we crossed a number of dry creek beds with mulga trees and Mitchell grass growing, then semi-deserts dotted with salt bush, followed by endless plains of fine reddish gravel. The road, while rocky in parts, was better then expected and it was easy to see oncoming traffic by the dust storms they created. Oodnadatta is a small Aboriginal settlement with a pub and the famous Pink Roadhouse. We thought the Roadhouse sounded like a place for travellers to exchange stories over dinner by a roaring fire. We were very disappointed because it closed at 5.30, literally leaving us out in the cold! Found the small hotel open and secured a meal of gigantic proportions. Felt saddened by the sight of Aboriginals buying tea that was only chips and gravy. The highlight of the trip was the Painted Desert, or Arckaringa Hills located at Arckaringa Station. This is a series of breakaway hills at the edge of the Stuart Ranges. The hills are the remnants of a sea bed that took over 80 million years to erode. The various layers have leached the surrounding soils, resulting in spectacularly colourful landscapes. It was far more spectacular than we had anticipated and will be one of those memories for ever.

Oodnadatta Roadtrain

Coober Pedy Church

Coober Pedy 3 – 7 June 2006

Had a long drive to Coober Pedy and camped in the side yard of Albert and Phyl, two CMCA members who offer this spot with power and water for $5 night to help fulfil their ideal of going off in their motorhome. Sadly it is just sitting in the yard getting rusty. Quite a few other motorhomes camped, so it gave us a good chance to catch up with a variety of people around the fire. Wandered up and down the main street (which didn’t take long) and went for a drive among the opal fields. Coober Pedy is a larger than Andamooka and has a greater supply of opals, with lots of shops selling them. There is a lot to see, including the dugouts. These dugouts are scattered around the surrounding hills and while some are converted from mines, most are purpose built. The miner excavates a hole into the side of a cliff and proceeds to hollow out a large house, connects ventilation pipes, electricity and water and vole – an instant home! They even build their churches underground! We visited one old miner called Crocodile Harry who is the character that Crocodile Dundee was supposedly based on. He has lived in this mine for 30 years and is alleged to have made a good fortune here. The strange part was looking at the photos of him in the fifties looking like Tarzan wrestling crocs and now as an 81 year old with obvious cancer and not long to go. I asked him about his life and he offered that he had lived his life completely the way he wanted and did not believe many people do that. I would imagine he must have been a big womaniser and found out from others he had a wife for a few minutes! He has had his very unusual home open for visitors and it is completely filled with painting, sculptures, memorabilia from thousands of international visitors, with the walls covered in writing. It was a Salvador Dali feel and so unique.
There are lots of aborigines in town from the surrounding areas and it was rather sad to see them hopelessly shuffling around town begging from the tourists. They would not really need the money because they do have welfare but we doubt that they would have much in their wallets because of the drinking and gambling. This is dry town, what ever that means, and you can’t buy sherry or a cask until after 3pm. We have tried to be friendly and acknowledge them but they don’t try and connect. There were about 500 Aboriginals here until last year, when 400 came in from some other settlement and upset the balance. The new comers are apparently the more restless ones. None of them came from this area as it is so desolate and not traditional land. We understand that the string of springs along the Oodnadatta track was traditional land and explains the movement of the tribes into central Australia along the natural waterways. It is such a complex unsolved problem and sad to observe the undignified existence that currently exists. Other travellers tell us that we will be sorry to see the state of affairs as we travel north.

Coober Pedy Dugout

Glendambo 2 June 2006

Had another look around Woomera. It is a really eerie place – like a deserted Canberra after a bomb has gone off! There are rows of streets like a new estate, just waiting for houses to be built – only in this case the houses have been demolished. In the middle of the town is a shopping centre – with vacant shops – surrounded by empty car parks. For a town of 350 people, it has lots of facilities including a theatre, a very upmarket renovated 1960s hotel, 3 clubs and a golf course! Drove onto Glendambo for the night. This has two roadhouses and a pub. Went to the pub for a drink and talked to some other travellers about their experiences. There was a gigantic open fire place and they put small trees straight in! Nice and snug!

Coober Pedy dugout

Woomera 1 June 2006

Had a last (hopefully) look around Port Augusta then set off for Woomera again. Arrived there late but we weren’t worried as we camped at the Spud Roadhouse that we checked out very recently!!!. A very windy and cold desert night that all happens outside of our snug home.

Port Augusta 31 May 2006

Left Woomera and back along the familiar road, though surprisingly in a new time of day and the opposite direction it was still very enjoyable. (See - half full not half empty!). Had the new batteries checked out but no one could find anything wrong with them. Also chased up a part for the compressor, however this will have to be ordered from Queensland.

Coober Pedy

Woomera 30 May 2006

Went on a 2 hour tour of the Olympic Dam mining site at Roxby. This is a huge site that is set to triple in size. It was a bit extraordinary in the middle of this no-mans land. Copper and uranium are the big winners here with the extra bonus being the by-products of gold and silver. Stayed overnight at the caravan park in Woomera because the new batteries were not performing correctly. We made a hard decision to go back to Port Augusta to get them checked as the way forward looks like there is not much mechanical support.

Olympic Dam Mine

Roxby Downs 29 May 2006

Wandered around Andamooka in the morning to see what we may have missed. We were very interested in the homes that were preserved with much of their original character intact. Could not fully imagine the hardship of it all but took a guess that it was rugged. We then headed back to Roxby Downs to check out the compressor and book a tour of the copper mines. We took a long walk around the town on a walk that was designed in the eighties to follow all the reserves that were planned behind all the homes. Did not see a straight street anywhere. All curving around to add a bit of interest. They must have been very nice reserves when planed and established but have become quite neglected.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Woomera Rockets

Noodling at Andamooka

Andamooka 28 May 2006

Got to Roxby Downs in the morning and had a look around the town. After Woomera having nothing to speak of in the form of a grocery shop we were stunned to see a proper little shopping centre with a big Woolworths. We needed nothing as we shopped up in Port Augusta as if we were going to the Never Never. The connections to mainstream Oz are closing in. This is a company mining town and while it has only been established for 18 years it has 4,000 people living in busy town. The school is next to the shopping centre and attached to the TAFE. There are 900 kids in the public school and 200 in the Catholic, so you get the picture. This is a young town with kids hurtling around on bikes, young mums and babies.
Went on to Andamooka (an opal mining village pop. 350) that was a complete contrast from Woomera and Roxby Downs. The houses are ramshackle affairs that meander amongst the dirt roads, surrounded by large mullock heaps. Went to see the local cemetery which is becoming a habit of ours and were not disappointed in it. Not many there and all from 1970s. Real character with the use of beautiful natural rocks to make up the headstones and mostly surnames that indicate middle Europe. We were rather taken by one with the whole bed of the grave covered in stones back filling numerous chunks of rocks of natural opal. Of course we did not check that they were secure but assume that might be the reason in was all intact for about 25 years. Not sure how many towns in Australia don’t have a council but this one doesn’t. They are adamant that they do not one either. They have a Progress Association and make up the rules as they go along. It was like Lightning Ridge in the 60s. Had a drink in the pub next to a big log fire and absorbed the rough characters. Camped on the edge of town to a very quiet night.

Island Lagoon

Woomera 27 May 2006

Stocked up at Woolies with some nice goodies as if we were going to the centre of Australia!! Left Port Augusta at lunch time and drove on to Woomera. As my brother-in-law told me it took 5 min to drive around - we tried to make it last longer but couldn’t. Woomera is owned by the Dept of Defence and has a surreal lonely feel to it with lots of empty street and houses. It was originally a town of 7,000 people but now has only 350 people left. We did spend an hour in the museum which was very interesting. We have to come back on Monday for some mail so maybe it will be more alive during the week. We are going on to Roxbury Downs so we drove out of Woomera and found our selves in the middle of barren treeless landscape and just stopped in the middle of it and watched another fantastic sunset that glowed for over an hour after it went down. We wondered if we were looking at the sun in WA!! Spend our evenings reading a lot and love to get back to the latest novel. We like to get the Sat paper and are getting to enjoy The Australian after many years of The Saturday Morning Herald. Tonight we have ABC reception so we might “veg” out on it. Eating too well though not putting on weight (YET!!).

Port Augusta 25 - 26 May 2006

While we had continued to have troubles with our batteries, we were OK as long as we parked on a slope! Stopped at Yourambulla Aboriginal Caves, which you reached after a hard climb, but after our recent hike, it felt a breeze. There were some marvellous Aboriginal paintings scattered throughout the caves. Drove onto Port Augusta and camped near the lake. In the morning, sorted out the battery problems and had a quiet day.

Hucks Lookout 24 May 2006

After a restful morning, we set out for Port Augusta, however we had a problem with our batteries, so we started a bit later then we normally travel. However this gave us the opportunity to admire the myriad of kangaroos and emus we encountered on the way back to Hucks Lookout. Again the 360deg view and a wonderful sunset on the mountains. We have struck a few very cold nights last week and resorted to wearing beanies to bed. We are still very warm and don’t like to spread it around BUT our electric blankets work fine!! The days are beautiful and you would not really need any more warmth.

Koolaman Campsite (Flinders Ranges NP) 20 – 23 May 2006

Drove up to the northern edge of the Flinders Ranges NP, along increasingly rough roads and settled down for a few days at an isolated campsite, overlooking the mountains. It is very peaceful here and we have a fire each night to cook our tea. Heather made some delicious beer bread, which we scoffed down for lunch. The Ranger joined in for the beer bread and spent quite a bit of time getting the recipe worked out. On Tuesday we drove down to Bunyeroo Gorge and went for a walk along the gorge. The colours in the rock walls were extraordinary. We walked along the dry creek bed which was a natural wonderland.